AirAsia QZ8501: Forty bodies found in missing plane search

  • 30 December 2014
  • From the section Asia
Media captionSearchers think they have found the debris site from flight QZ8501

At least 40 bodies have been recovered from the sea in the search for missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501, the Indonesian navy says.

The bodies were spotted along with debris floating in the Java Sea off the Indonesian part of Borneo, in one of the search zones for the plane.

There has been no official confirmation that the remains come from the plane.

The Airbus A320-200, carrying 162 people from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore, disappeared on Sunday.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Searchers have found what they think is the missing plane's slide
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pictures of debris were taken by search and rescue aircraft

The search operation is now in its third day, with the area widened to cover 13 zones over land and sea.

In a separate development, there were reports of a second incident involving an AirAsia plane at Kalibo in the central Philippines. The reports said the plane overshot the runway.

Rescuers 'busy'

During a news conference by the head of the search operation, shown live on Indonesian TV, pictures of the debris were shown including a body floating on the water.

Relatives of passengers on the plane watching the pictures were visibly shocked.

Later, the Indonesian navy reported that 40 bodies had been retrieved by one warship.

Its spokesman said the rescuers were continuing to recover bodies and were "very busy now".

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted to the families: "My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences."

Image copyright AP

At the scene: Alice Budisatrijo, BBC News, Surabaya

They had been hoping for a miracle, but in the end they had to watch the worst possible news.

Relatives of the passengers screamed and wailed as local television networks showed pictures of what was clearly a human body floating in the water.

Grown men put their hands to their faces. At least two people collapsed and were taken out of the room on stretchers.

The mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, went from one crying relative to another, and at one point walked out with a grieving man, while telling him: "We don't have a choice. Today this happens to you, tomorrow it may happen to me. Nobody knows. So you have to be strong. Our lives belong to God."

It's been a trying and exhausting wait for the more than 100 relatives who have been gathering in that room, but no-one could have been prepared for this ending.

Media captionAlice Budisatrijo witnessed relatives screaming and crying as they watched a news conference on screens in Surabaya

Search operation head Bambang Soelistyo said he was 95% certain the objects shown were from the plane, adding that a shadow was spotted under water which appeared to be in the shape of a plane.

All resources were now being sent to the area where the debris was found, he said.

Mr Soelistyo added that ships with more sophisticated technology were being deployed to check whether larger parts of the plane were submerged beneath the debris.

Indonesian civil aviation chief Djoko Murjatmodjo, quoted by AFP news agency, said "significant things" such as a passenger door and cargo door had been found.

He added that the objects had been found 160km (100 miles) south-west of Pangkalan Bun in Borneo's Central Kalimantan province.

At least 30 ships, 15 aircraft and seven helicopters joined the operation when it resumed at 06:00 local time on Tuesday (23:00 GMT Monday).

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Search and rescue operations are now in their third day

The operation, led by Indonesia, includes assistance from Malaysia, Singapore and Australia, with other offers of help from South Korea, Thailand, China and France. The US destroyer USS Sampson is on its way to the zone.

Communication lost

On board the plane were 137 adult passengers, 17 children and one infant, along with two pilots and five crew.

Most were Indonesian but the passengers included one UK national, a Malaysian, a Singaporean and three South Koreans.

Media captionEditor Geoffrey Thomas: AirAsia flight QZ8501 may "have have been caught in a severe thunderstorm updraft"

The plane left Surabaya at 05:35 Jakarta time on Sunday and had been due to arrive in Singapore two hours later.

Safety officials say the captain had asked for permission to take the plane higher but, by the time permission was granted, communication with the plane was lost.

It was officially declared missing at 07:55.

AirAsia previously had an excellent safety record and there were no fatal accidents involving its aircraft.

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