Search Resumes for Missing Indonesian Jet After False Report of Found Wreckage

Ships and planes resumed searching Wednesday for a missing jetliner in Indonesia, a day after authorities shocked passengers' relatives by saying that initial reports of finding the wreckage and possible survivors had been wrong.

Loved ones of the 102 people aboard the Adam Air flight learned late Tuesday that officials were backtracking on their announcement that the Boeing 737's crash site had been found in mountainous area of northern Indonesia

"Oh, what is happening to us?" wailed Dorce Sundalangi, whose daughter was on the flight, after hearing the report was based on rumors from villagers that trickled up to the highest levels of government.

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"They had given us hope of seeing our beloved relatives ... but it was false hope."

Air force Rear Cmdr. Eddy Suyanto — among those who earlier confirmed that the Adam Air plane crashed in the Polewali region of Sulawesi island — acknowledged the error late Tuesday and apologized.

Soon after sunrise Wednesday, three navy ships and five air force craft were deployed over a large section of south and western Sulawesi and nearby waters, Bambang Karnoyudho, the head of the National Search and Rescue Agency, told The Associated Press.

Karnoyudo said that based on radar and satellite readings he thought it most likely that the plane had fallen into the sea.

"God willing, we can find it soon," he told The Associated Press.

The plane had sent out two distress signals in stormy weather Monday halfway through its two-hour journey from Indonesia's main island of Java to Manado, on the northern tip of Sulawesi, one of the largest islands in the sprawling archipelago.

On Tuesday, top police and military officials — and the airline itself — said the plane had been found in a remote part of Sulawesi. They said that 90 people on board had perished, but that the remaining 12 may have survived.

Descriptions were vivid, with officials saying corpses and debris from the plane were scattered over a 300-meter ( 327-yard) area of forest and jagged cliffs — highlighting the often unreliable and chaotic nature of disaster relief efforts in the world's largest archipelagic nation.

But later in the day, they said they had been wrong and no wreckage had been found.

Some of the relatives awaiting news about the missing were camped out at the Adam Air counter at the Manado airport — the destination of the ill-fated plane — and others were in the southern Sulawesi city of Makassar, believed to be closer to where the plane went down.

"I don't understand how the authorities could be so heartless and spread rumors without thinking of the suffering of those waiting for news of their loved ones," said Ima Kulata, who was awaiting word about her cousin and two nieces.

"It's ridiculous," she said, crying after learning there may be no survivors after all. "How come they make such fools of us?"

Just over half of the Adam Air's flight path was over the Java Sea, the Maluku Sea and other smaller bodies of water.

Adam Air is one of at least a dozen budget carriers that have emerged in the country since 1999, when the industry was deregulated. The rapid expansion has led to cheap flights to scores of destinations around the sprawling nation, but has raised some safety concerns, since maintenance on the leased planes is reportedly poor.

National aviation chief Ichsan Tatang said the plane involved in Monday's disaster was 17 years old, had flown 45,371 hours and passed its last inspection on Dec. 25.

"Everything was in order, the condition of the plane was good," he said, adding it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash though it went down in severe weather.

In September 2005, a Mandala Airlines Boeing 737 crashed after takeoff on Sumatra, killing 143 people.

In September 1997, a Garuda Airlines Airbus crashed into a jungle-covered mountain slope in Sumatra, killing all 234 people aboard. Two months later, a Silk Air Boeing 737 jet crashed into a river on Sumatra, killing 104 people.

Adam Air, which began operations in 2003, was founded by Agung Laksono, the speaker of Indonesia's house of representatives and the company's chairman.

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