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Hope for passengers in plane crash

Rescuers hope that some of the 18 people on board a plane that crashed in the mountains of western Indonesia may be alive, after spotting the aircraft intact with one of its doors open.

Rugged terrain and bad weather have prevented rescuers from reaching the crash site by foot, said Sunarbowo Sandi, head of the local search and rescue team, after carrying out aerial surveys.

But just before darkness fell, a helicopter lowered two rescuers by rope into a valley about 300 metres from the wreckage.

He said: "They haven't reached it yet. There is a steep ravine separating them and the plane, so we don't know yet if anyone survived."

The Spanish-designed CASA C-212 lost contact with air traffic control early yesterday while flying from North Sumatra to Aceh province. Minutes later, it sent out a distress signal, then dropped off the radar.

A helicopter spotted the wreckage on a 60-degree slope in the Bahorok region at an altitude of 5,000 feet.

Though the plane's nose and cockpit were badly damaged, the fuselage and wings were intact, said Robur Rizallianto, a safety manager with the airline, PT Nusantara Buana Air.

"One of its doors is open," he said, holding out hope that it could mean some of the 14 passengers and four crew were alive. Four of those on board were children.

Footage on MetroTV showed family members of the crash victims waiting at the airport in Medan, from where the plane departed.

They demanded clear information about the fate of their loved ones, accusing the airline and rescue teams of taking far too long.

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