AirAsia searchers hope for break in weather

Jan 06, 2015, 1:38 AM EST
Indonesian Navy carry dead bodies to a helicopter Bell-420 onboard Navy vessel 'KRI Banda Aceh' during search operations for AirAsia flight QZ8501 in the Java sea on January 3, 2015.
AFP/Getty Images

Search teams trying to find the black box flight recorders from a crashed AirAsia jet and recover bodies of victims scrambled on Tuesday to take advantage of a brief respite in the bad weather that has frustrated the operation for the last nine days. Reuters reports:

Indonesian officials believe they may have located the tail and parts of the fuselage of the Airbus (AIR.PA) A320-200 at the bottom of the Java Sea, but strong currents, high winds and big waves have hindered attempts to send divers to investigate.

Flight QZ8501 plunged into the water off Borneo island on Dec. 28, about 40 minutes into a two-hour flight from Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore. There were no survivors among the 162 people on board.

Jakarta has launched a crackdown on its fast-growing aviation sector in the wake of the crash, reassigning some officials and tightening rules on pre-flight procedures in a country with a patchy reputation for air safety.

Air force Lt Col Jhonson Supriadi, speaking from Pangkalan Bun, the southern Borneo town where the multinational search and recovery operation is based, said there was a narrow window of better weather early on Tuesday.

"It's pretty good. We will start searching as quickly as possible," he said, adding that the weather was expected to "get uglier again" later in the day. The main focus of the search is about 90 nautical miles off Borneo, where five large objects believed to be parts of the plane - the largest about 18 meters (59 feet) long - have been located in shallow waters by ships using sonar.

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. The BBC reports:

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.

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

earch 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.