AirAsia QZ8501: 'Black box' flight recorders 'found'

Investigators walk near a section of the tail of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 passenger plane in Kumai Port, near Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan (11 January 2015) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Search teams retrieved the missing plane's tail on Saturday

Indonesian divers may have located the flight recorders of missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, the head of the search and recovery operation has said.

Bambang Sulistoyo said he believed they had been found - and divers would try to retrieve them on Monday.

They are buried on the seabed underneath the aircraft's debris, officials say.

The possible discovery comes amid intense efforts to find the main fuselage of Flight QZ8501.

It disappeared in bad weather on 28 December with 162 people on board.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Search teams have been able to take advantage of better weather over the weekend in their search for the main fuselage and the "black box"

The aircraft was flying from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore and is lying 30m (98ft) below the surface of the Java Sea.

Three Indonesian ships had detected signals from two different locations about 3.5km (2 miles) from where the aircraft's tail was discovered, Co-ordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Indroyono Soesilo said.

"The two are close to each other, just about 20 metres [apart],'" Mr Soesilo said. "Hopefully, they are the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder."

AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes tweeted on Sunday that he had been "led to believe" that the recorders had been found.

But Mr Fernandes said that his "main concern" was recovering bodies from the aircraft's fuselage.

Earlier he tweeted: "Let's hope today is a major breakthrough day and we can find main fuselage."

An official said earlier that a large object resembling the plane's body had been found in a sonar scan of the search area in the Java Sea.

But Supriyadi, operations co-ordinator for Indonesia's search-and-rescue agency, later told the BBC's Indonesian service that reports that the fuselage had been found had not been confirmed.

Supriyadi has said that if the main body of the plane is found, the first priority of search teams will be to remove the remains of victims.

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Media captionBBC News looks at the challenges divers face in the hunt for the black box

A team of divers had been sent to investigate, he added, but up until recently poor weather conditions had once again been hampering the search efforts.

Rescue workers have been pulling bodies and wreckage from the sea but progress has been slow. At least 48 bodies have been retrieved so far.

The cause of the crash is unknown but the plane had encountered bad weather and asked for a flight path change before communication was lost.

The flight data recorders are usually housed inside the rear part of the plane.

They are designed to survive a crash and being submerged in water, and contain underwater locator beacons which emit signals for at least 30 days.

Finding them has been one of the top priorities for search teams as they provide crucial clues from the last moments of a flight before it came down.

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