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Indonesian plane carrying 10 loses contact in Sulawesi

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A plane carrying 10 people lost contact with air traffic control during a domestic flight across Indonesia's Sulawesi island on Friday afternoon (Oct 2), officials said.

The head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency confirmed that an Aviastar Twin Otter DHC-6 aircraft lost contact shortly after taking off from the remote Masamba airport in North Luwu at around 2.30pm.

"We are still waiting for more detailed information but me and my team are flying to Masamba tonight," agency chief Bambang Sulistyo told AFP.

The plane was carrying four adults, three children and three crew members, and was scheduled to arrive in the provincial capital Makassar one hour after taking off.

The Transportation Ministry said a search has begun for the aircraft.

"It was around 60 nautical miles from Makassar," ministry spokesman J.R. Barata told MetroTV. "We have now started a search." 

Rescue efforts

"Most importantly, we will work out its position first," he said.

Aviastar, which flies domestic routes, said it contacted search authorities after it lost contact with the aircraft in the mid-afternoon.

Mr Sulistyo said that rescue efforts would likely be carried out on on Saturday morning (Oct 3).

"It’s already dark now, but things can change depending on the latest development," he added.

Mr Abdul Munir, general manager of Makassar airport, told TVOne in a live interview the plane lost contact eight minutes after it took off.

Indonesia has a patchy aviation safety record and has had three major air crashes over the past year, including an AirAsia flight that went down in the sea on a flight from Bali to Singapore in December, killing all 162 people aboard.

Sources: Reuters, AFP