Medan (Indonesia): The death toll from the crash of an Indonesian air force plane packed with military personnel and their families rose to 142 today, as witnesses described people fleeing the disaster zone covered in blood with their clothes alight.
The Hercules C-130 transport plane crashed into a residential area in the city of Medan yesterday, shortly after taking off from an airbase in the city on Sumatra island.
Buildings were severely damaged, cars reduced to flaming wrecks and the plane itself was almost completely destroyed, with the mangled tail the only part of the 51-year-old aircraft still recognisable after the disaster.
Many of those on board the flight to an island off Sumatra, which was carrying 122 people, were believed to be servicemen and women and their families. The air force has said no one survived the crash.
It is unclear how many people died on the ground, but a steady stream of bodies has been arriving at a Medan hospital as rescuers pull them from the disaster scene, and police said today that the total death toll now stood at 142.
New witness accounts emerged of terrifying scenes, with one man describing how the plane flew low and then smashed into a building, producing "flames as high as four storeys".
"Everyone panicked and screamed," Tumpak Naibaho, a 27-year-old tyre repairman, told AFP, adding there were hundreds of people in the area when the crash happened around midday.
"I thought it was a terrorist attack or something... I saw one man whose clothes were on fire, staggering out of the debris. His face was covered in blood, dust and ash."
"I had never felt so scared in my life, I thought I was going to die," he added.
People in the area said several buildings were thought to have been destroyed in the crash, although it was not clear whether there were people inside at the time. The plane hit a massage parlour and hotel when it came down, according to officials.
Rescuers were today continuing to clear debris, which spread over a large area, helped by two earthmovers, as hundreds looked on.
Yesterday's accident was the sixth deadly crash involving an Indonesian air force plane in the past decade, according to the Aviation Safety Network, and prompted Indonesian President Joko Widodo to call for an overhaul of the military's ageing equipment.