Relatives of passengers on board missing Sriwijaya Air flight SJY182 wait for news at the Supadio airport in Pontianak on January 9, 2021, after contact with the aircraft was lost shortly after take-off from Jakarta. – An Indonesian budget airline with 62 people on board is suspected to have crashed into the sea shortly after the Boeing 737 took off from Jakarta airport on January 9, authorities said. (Photo by Louis ANDERSON / AFP)

An Indonesian Sriwijaya Air plane is feared to have crashed into the sea after the Boeing 737 lost contact with air traffic control in the capital Jakarta with flight tracking data showing it plunged into a steep dive minutes after takeoff.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said flight SJ182 was delayed by an hour before it took off at 2:36pm (21:36 GMT) on Saturday.

The Boeing 737-500 disappeared from radar four minutes later, after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude of 8,839 metres (29,000 feet), he said.

Sumadi told a news conference that 62 people had been on board.

A statement released by the budget airline said the plane was on an estimated 90-minute domestic flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island, about 740km (460 miles) away.

Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington, reporting from Jakarta, said the 62 people on board included seven children and three infants and that the authorities believe they have found debris of the plane.

“The military has sent reinforcements including helicopters, and military vessels attempting to find what exactly happened,” she said.

Washington said the flight was delayed due to poor weather conditions and heavy rain at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at the time of takeoff.

Minister Sumadi said a dozen vessels, including four warships, were deployed in a search and rescue operation centred between Lancang and Laki islands, part of the Thousand Islands chain just north of Jakarta.

Separately, the Indonesian Navy said it determined the coordinates of the missing plane and ships were deployed to the location.

Surachman, a local government official, told Kompas TV that fishermen found what appeared to be the wreckage of an aircraft in waters north of Jakarta. Other news channels showed images of suspected wreckage.

“We found some cables, a piece of jeans, and pieces of metal on the water,” Zulkifli, a security official, told CNNIndonesia.com.

Agus Haryono, an official of the Basarnas search-and-rescue agency, told Reuters news agency it had not been confirmed the debris came from flight SJ182.

Agus said 50 people were taking part in the search operation and they would keep working into the night.

Reliable tracking service Flightradar24 said on its Twitter feed that flight SJ182 “lost more than 10,000 feet [3,000 metres] of altitude in less than one minute, about four minutes after departure from Jakarta”.

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