Asia

AirAsia crash: Search for bodies 'could end soon'

In this file photograph taken on 10 January 2015, Indonesian search and rescue personnel pull wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501 onto the Crest Onyx ship at sea. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency said it will continue recovery operations

The head of Indonesia's civilian search and rescue agency has said the search for victims of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 could be ended by the end of next week if no more bodies are found.

It comes a day after the military said it was suspending its operation to retrieve the fuselage from the seabed as they believe no bodies are inside.

The plane was flying from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore on 28 December carrying 162 people when it crashed.

More than 90 people are still missing.

Bambang Soelistyo, the chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), told reporters on Wednesday that search teams were not affected by the military's pull-out.

They were taking a few days' rest but would resume their operation on Saturday at the latest.

"After seven days we will evaluate whether the operation will be extended or shut down. It will depend on the dynamics of what happens within the seven days," he said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Bambang Soelistyo told reporters that the search teams needed to rest for a few days

"If we can find one or two more bodies, that means we have the opportunity to prolong the operation," Reuters quoted him as saying.

Authorities had initially thought that most of the missing bodies would be inside the sunken fuselage, but now believe that is no longer the case.

Agency official S B Supriyadi told AFP news agency that the bodies "could be on the seabed, or have been swept away by waves and currents".

Basarnas are using helicopters, four ships and both professional and volunteer divers in their search.

The team identifying victims who have been found will still remain in operation and stationed in Surabaya, said Mr Soelistyo.

He added that victims' families had been informed of the possible deadline and understand the situation.

BBC Indonesian's Pinta Karana says that families have welcomed efforts to continue the search. But some have also expressed concern about the possible deadline.

Dwi Yanto, whose son Bima Adi Wicaksono was on the plane, said: "I plead for the search efforts to continue, that is my only hope."

"Why would they terminate it? The number of bodies not found is a lot more than the number of bodies recovered."

'Too fragile'

The military had announced on Tuesday that it was suspending its operation to retrieve the fuselage following three days of failed attempts.

Search and retrieval efforts have been hampered by bad weather, and the wreckage is said to be too fragile to be lifted.

Military chief Gen Moeldoko told the BBC he was convinced that the fuselage was empty, and the National Transportation Safety Committee had confirmed that the wreckage might not be needed for their investigation as it is heavily damaged.

A preliminary report on the crash is expected to be filed this week, although the full investigation will take months.

The plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were found earlier this month.

Information from those devices showed the jet had climbed too fast, causing it to stall, according to Indonesia's Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan.

Related Topics