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Lion Air jet with 189 on board crashes into sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta

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Relatives of passengers of Lion Air flight JT610 that crashed into the sea, at Depati Amir airport in Pangkal Pinang, Indonesia, on Oct 29, 2018.

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Workers of PT Pertamina examine recovered debris of what is believed to be from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610, onboard Prabu ship owned by PT Pertamina, off the shore of Karawang regency, West Java province, Indonesia, Oct 29, 2018.

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File photo of a Lion Air plane.

[JAKARTA] The Indonesian authorities have mounted a search and rescue operation for a Lion Air plane which crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta on Monday morning.

There are 189 passengers and crew on board the plane, including two infants, one child, two pilots and six cabin crew. Around 20 staff from the Indonesia's Ministry of Finance are believed to be on board the plane.

Lion Air flight JT 610 took off from Jakarta Airport at 6.20am local time and lost contact with air traffic controllers at 6.33am. The Boeing 737 was originally scheduled to arrive at Pangkal Pinang at 7.10am.

The plane plunged into Karawang Bay, West Java province, Mr Muhammad Syaugi, head of the national search and rescue agency, told a press briefing. The waters at the crash site are around 30m to 35m deep.

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"On the sea surface, we found debris… The location is two nautical miles from where the plane lost contact,” he told reporters.

The crash site is near a facility of state-owned oil company Pertamina in West Java province. A video taken from a Pertamina vessel near the crash site showed oil patches on the water surface.

Local TV footage also showed wallets and mobile phones that had been retrieved from the waters.

Officials said the plane had requested a return to base before finally disappearing from the radar.

The head of Indonesia's national transportation safety committee (KNKT) Dr Soerjanto Tjahjono told reporters that the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane that crashed entered service in August this year and had clocked only about 800 flight hours.

When asked on the cause of the crash, Dr Soerjanto said: "We can't presume anything before finding the blackbox and also the recording from the (air traffic control) tower."

A tugboat notified the Tanjung Priok sea port’s Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) that it spotted a plane plunging into the water on Monday morning, according to Jakarta-based Elshinta radio.

In December 2014, Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 carrying 162 people plunged into the Java Sea after taking off from Surabaya to Singapore.

THE STRAITS TIMES