"It looks like there are no survivors," Air Marshal Agus Supriatna told reporter in the Sumatra city of Medan, adding that some of the 113 passengers were air force families. The crash of the C-130B Hercules aircraft, which went into service half a century ago, is bound to put a fresh spotlight on Indonesia's woeful air safety record and its ageing planes.

Officials said the plane plunged into a built-up area of the Sumatra city of Medan. Eye witnesses said it had appeared to explode shortly before it smashed into houses and a hotel. News channel reported that 49 bodies had been brought to a nearby hospital. In the first hours after the crash officials had said that only a crew of 12 service personnel were on board.

Black smoke billowed from the wreckage and crowds of people  milling around the area initially hampered emergency services rushing to the scene. The Hercules transport plane was on its way from an air force base in Medan to Tanjung Pinang in Sumatra. Media said the pilot had asked to return because of technical problems.

"It passed overhead a few times, really low," said Elfrida Efi, a receptionist at the Golden Eleven Hotel. "There was fire and black smoke. The third time it came byit crashed into the roof of the hotel and exploded straight away," she told reporter by telephone.

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