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At least 15 die as plane crashes off Indonesia's Papua

An Indonesian plane carrying 27 people crashed into the sea off the remote Papua province, the transport ministry said today, and media said at least 15 people were killed.

The Merpati propeller-driven plane was travelling to Kaimana in Papua, a forested and mountainous eastern province with among the worst infrastructure in the archipelago of over 17,000 islands.

"We're still checking on the passengers' situation," said Bambang Ervan, a spokesman for the transport ministry. "We also don't know what caused the accident, but the weather was pretty bad at the time."

Indonesian media, quoting airport officials, said the plane, a MA60 made by China's AVIC International, had crashed 500 metres short of the runway and 15 bodies had been recovered so far.

Several small domestic carriers serve Indonesia and many have poor safety records. The European Commission, which had barred all Indonesian airlines from its airspace, lifted a ban in 2009 on Indonesian flag carrier Garuda Indonesia after it improved safety standards.