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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bad weather halts recovery of bodies from AirAsia flight

Singapore Air Force personnel survey the waters during a search and locate operation for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 plane. Search operations have been temporarily stopped due to bad weather. – Reuters pic, December 31, 2014.Singapore Air Force personnel survey the waters during a search and locate operation for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 plane. Search operations have been temporarily stopped due to bad weather. – Reuters pic, December 31, 2014.
Stormy weather today has forced Indonesian rescuers to suspend their search for the bodies of those on Indonesia AirAsia's flight QZ8501, which plunged into the water at the weekend carrying 162 people.
More than 48 hours after the Airbus A320-200 disappeared en route from Indonesia's second largest city Surabaya to Singaporey, aerial searchers found wreckage and bodies floating in the Java Sea yesterday.
"We are experiencing bad weather now. Rains and winds prevented us from resuming the search operation this morning," air force rescue coordinator S.B. Supriyadi told AFP.
Aviation experts believe that, weather permitting, the fuselage may be easily found by divers as the aircraft probably only broke up when it hit the water.
National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo told a press conference Wednesday that six bodies had now been recovered, including a woman in crew uniform.
"As soon as the weather is clear, the bodies will be brought to Pangkalan Bun," the town with the nearest airstrip to the crash site, said Soelistyo.
Supriyadi said that hundreds of people from the military, police and national rescue agency were on standby waiting for clear weather in Pangkalan Bun.
The plane crashed into the Java Sea southwest of the island of Borneo, with debris including an exit door and a blue suitcase so far retrieved from the area.
A navy spokesman told AFP yesterday that more than 40 bodies had been recovered, but he later said that report was a miscommunication by his staff.
CNN reported that six bodies from AirAsia Indonesia flight QZ8501 had been recovered so far, including that of a flight attendant.
Indonesia's search and rescue agency has obtained a sonar image it says may be the body of the missing AirAsia jet at the bottom of the Java Sea, the Wall Street Journal said.
The newspaper quoted the agency as saying the image appeared to show an airplane upside down in 24 to 30 metres of water.
During yesterday's searches, an air force plane saw a "shadow" on the seabed believed to be that of the missing flight, where all search efforts are now being concentrated, Soelistyo had said.
Investigators were also looking into the cause of the crash, which is the third disaster for a Malaysia-linked carrier this year.
Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch said yesterday that one of its investigators had arrived in Singapore and met with experts there who are assisting the Indonesian investigation.
Soelistyo said the hunt was on for the plane's crucial black boxes, which would be handled by the national transport safety committee.
"We have concerns to secure the flight recorders, believed to be with parts of plane we haven't found," he said.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo met the passengers' relatives in Surabaya yesterday, where a crisis centre has been set up, and he promised to ensure a massive search.
AirAsia boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes also visited the centre and said he was experiencing an airline chief executive's "worst nightmare".
"There were some very unique weather conditions and let's wait for the investigation to be concluded.
"This is a scar with me for the rest of my life," he told reporters.
Relatives of passengers on the plane began crying hysterically and fainting yesterday as Indonesian television footage showed a body floating in the sea during aerial searches. – Agencies

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