By Agustinus Beo Da Costa
JAKARTA (Reuters) - A twin-engine Indonesian police plane went missing on Saturday with 15 people on board en route to the island of Batam, south of Singapore, police and rescue authorities said, as search teams scoured the area.
The plane, which took off from Pangkal Pinang on the island of Bangka at around 9.30 a.m. is thought to have crashed between the islands of Mensanak and Sebangka or Gentar, a police report seen by Reuters said.
A search team recovered items apparently identified as being from the missing aircraft, including seats, luggage and documents, the report said, noting that according to the manifest there were 15 people on board.
According to Indonesia's Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS), items belonging to passengers had also been found.
"We found debris," BASARNAS chief Bambang Soelistyo told Reuters, adding his team were searching in a 200 square nautical mile area.
Soelistyo said it was too soon to assume there were no survivors and that no remains of those aboard had been found, although there were no reports of survivors.
Up to four police vessels were searching the area, he said, along with navy vessels.
According to a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), the last known radar position of the aircraft was about 40 nautical miles southeast of Tanjung Pinang.
"With clearance from the Indonesian authorities, one SuperPuma helicopter and one Fokker 50 are currently on-scene supporting the Indonesians to locate the aircraft," the statement said. "Two ships are awaiting clearance by the Indonesian authorities to assist in the search and rescue efforts."
(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in SINGAPORE; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Nick Macfie and Janet Lawrence)