AirAsia QZ8501: Plane search enters second week – BBC News

Posted: Sunday, January 04, 2015

Indonesian marine divers in Pangkalan Bun, 1 January 2015Dozens of divers have been deployed to help with the search

The search for the main wreckage of AirAsia QZ8501 in the Java Sea has entered a second week, with poor weather still hampering operations.

Divers had hoped for better conditions but faced continued suspensions.

A fifth large object, thought to be debris from the plane, has been located under the sea. Another body has also been found, bringing the total to 31.

Flight QZ8501 crashed en route from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore last Sunday with 162 people aboard.

Bad weather is believed to be the biggest factor in the crash.

The Airbus A320’s “black boxes”, or flight data recorders, have yet to be located.

Most of the victims’ bodies are thought to be trapped in the plane’s fuselage.

‘Window of opportunity’

On Saturday, officials said a ship using sonar had detected four large objects, the biggest measuring 18m (59ft) by 5.4m, at a depth of 30m.

Remotely operated cameras were being used to try to photograph the objects, but waves up to five metres high were hampering the effort.

On Sunday, search and rescue agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said a fifth object, measuring 9.8m by 1.1m, had been located on the seabed.

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.

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

Indonesian search and rescue personnel, 3 January 2015The search operation is now entering its second week

Russian divers in Pangkalan Bun, 3 January 2015Russia has contributed divers to the operation

Debris resembling an aircraft window panel, 4 January 2015Some debris has been retrieved, but poor weather has impeded recovery of wreckage

Sisters of AirAsia crash victim Hendra Gunawan Syawal pray near their brother's coffin in Surabaya, Indonesia, 3 January 2015Victims’ families have been holding funerals in Surabaya

Rukman Soleh, the weather bureau chief at the search headquarters in Pangkalan Bun, had earlier said the weather on Sunday and Monday “should provide the search effort with a window of opportunity”.

Another search and rescue official, SB Supriyadi, said 95 divers were on standby.

“We’ll be concentrating on the underwater search, hopefully we’ll be able to evacuate more bodies,” he told AFP news agency.

“We want to speed up the evacuation of bodies which might be stuck inside the plane’s body.”

The Indonesian weather agency, BMKG, said that conditions at the time of the plane’s disappearance suggested it had probably flown into a storm.

It 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.

Map of AirAsia 8501 flight path and search area - 2 January 2015

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 has 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.

Families of victims have been holding funerals as bodies that have been recovered are flown back to Surabaya.

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

Black box flight recorders

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