AirAsia QZ8501: Search teams find more bodies

  • 4 January 2015
  • From the section Asia
Members of the search and rescue team carry the body of a victim of the AirAsia flight QZ8501 at Iskandar airbase - 4 January 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption More than 30 bodies have been found but the majority are thought to be trapped in the plane's fuselage

Search teams have recovered four more bodies from the Java Sea as the hunt to find the main wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501 enters a second week.

Search and rescue chief Bambang Soelistyo said 34 bodies have now been found, as well as five large objects.

But bad weather has forced divers to suspend their bid to find the plane's fuselage, where most of the bodies are believed to be trapped.

The plane, which was carrying 162 people, crashed last Sunday.

It was en route from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore.

Bad weather is believed to be the biggest factor in the crash although the Airbus A320's "black boxes", or flight data recorders, have yet to be located.

Media captionDebris thought to be from the AirAsia plane was filmed floating in the sea

Mr Soelistyo said on Sunday that Singapore navy vessel RSS Persistence had recovered one body, while US navy ship USS Sampson had brought three more back to the Indonesian town of Pangkalan Bun.

Nearly 30 ships are now involved in the search operation, as well as six planes and 14 helicopters.

Large objects found

There were hopes the weather would improve on Sunday, but conditions once again hampered efforts to find the plane's main wreckage.

Search teams found four large objects thought to be debris from the plane on Saturday, with the largest measuring 18m (59ft) by 5.4m, at a depth of 30m.

A fifth object, measuring 9.8m by 1.1m, was located on the seabed on Sunday, Mr Soelistyo told reporters.

Media captionThe BBC's Martin Patience reports from a memorial service in Surabaya

'Race against time'

Dozens of divers from Indonesia and Russia have been deployed to the search area, which has been enlarged to allow for tides sweeping bodies and debris further afield.

They attempted to survey more of the seabed on Sunday but "visibility at the sea bottom was zero," Mr Soelistyo said.

Remotely operated cameras were being used to try to photograph the objects, but waves up to 5m (16ft) high and strong currents made their use difficult.

National Search and Rescue deputy chief Tatang Zainudin said: "We are racing with time and weather in running this mission."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bad weather in the region has hampered the search and rescue operation for several days
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some debris has been retrieved, including what appears to be a window panel from the aircraft
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dozens of divers have been deployed to help with the search, including a team of Russian specialists

On Saturday, Indonesian weather agency BMKG said initial analysis suggested icy conditions in the air had caused the engine to stall.

Officials have said the plane was travelling at 32,000ft when the pilot's last communication was a request to climb to 38,000ft to avoid bad weather.

It has emerged that AirAsia did not have official permission to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on the day of the crash, but was licensed on four other days of the week.

The Indonesian authorities suspended the company's flights on this route pending an investigation. AirAsia said it will "fully co-operate".

There were 137 adult passengers, 17 children and one infant, along with two pilots and five crew, on the plane - the majority Indonesian.

AirAsia previously had an excellent safety record, with no fatal accidents involving its aircraft.

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