A passenger plane carrying 27 people has crashed in Indonesia's eastern province of West Papua, killing at least 17 people, news agencies report quoting police sources.

The flight, operated by the state-owned Merpati Nusantara Airlines, originated in Sorong, another town in West Papua, before disappearing on Saturday.

Herry Bakti Singayuda, director-general of air transportation, said rescuers had recovered 17 bodies from the wreckage of the aircraft, which crashed into Kaimana Bay about 500 yards from the end of the runway.

Searchers were hampered by heavy rain.

The Chinese-made Xian MA60 twin turboprop plane went down just before landing in Kaimana, Singayuda said.

"Technically there was no problem with the plane," he said.

He said the plane had only 615 flight hours and had been purchased in October.

It was one of 13 MA60s currently used in Indonesia, Singayuda said.

Earlier, Bambang Ervan, a transportation ministry spokesperson, told the AFP news agency: "A MA-60 aircraft crashed into the sea, some 500m away from the airstrip," before its intended landing.

"Given the condition of the wreckage of the ill-fated plane, it is hard to say that there are any survivors."

The passengers included an infant and two older children, Ervan said.

Nuno Sampurno, chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency, said the crash was probably caused by bad weather which limited visibility.

The Kompas newspaper said the plane was one of four MA60s owned by the airline.

Indonesia, an archipelago nation with more than 17,000 islands and 235 million people, has been beset by a string of transportation accidents in recent years, from plane and train crashes to ferry sinkings.

Overcrowding, ageing infrastructure and poor safety standards are often to blame.

Source: Agencies