JAKARTA (January 10, 2001 – Jakarta Post/Antara/Kabar Irian)---Bad weather hampered the evacuation of the bodies of the passengers and crew of the Navy plane which crashed in Irian Jaya on Monday, forcing a joint search and rescue operation to halt its efforts on Wednesday.

Search and rescue workers found the wreckage of the twin-turboprop Indonesian-built CASA NC-212 aircraft on a steep slope on Wednesday morning at around 6:00 a.m.

The evacuation was halted due to thick clouds and cold weather, with the temperature dropping to 5 degrees Celsius. Eight members of the joint search and rescue team will resume the operation on Thursday morning, Antara reported.

The search and rescue team has so far identified five of the bodies. They are Trikora military commander Maj. Gen. Tonny A. Rompis; Irian Jaya Police chief inspector Gen. F.X. Sumardi; provincial legislative council speaker Nataniel Kaiway; the adjutant to the governor, police Sgt. Maj. Jeheskia Z. Malu; and the plane's pilot, Maj. Sutopo Waluyo.

Lieutenant Colonel Seno, the head of the intelligence detachment of the Trikora Military Command, which is taking part in the search and rescue operation, confirmed that all of the passengers and crew of the aircraft perished in the crash.

A helicopter carrying members of the search and rescue team managed to land at the crash site at around 9:15 a.m. The bodies of the victims were found lying among the debris of the destroyed plane.

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml and http://www.kabar-irian.com 

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