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AirAsia flight QZ8501: Eighty divers deployed to continue search, four more bodies found

ABC News ABC News 4/01/2015

Search and Rescue crews carry part of AirAsia QZ8501 transported to shore by a Singapore Navy helicopter at the airbase in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan. © REUTERS/Darren Whiteside Search and Rescue crews carry part of AirAsia QZ8501 transported to shore by a Singapore Navy helicopter at the airbase in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan. More than 80 deep sea divers have been deployed to search for crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 as four more bodies are found, the airline says.

The divers will collect information about two large objects, suspected to be part of the aircraft's fuselage, using a sonar device. The will also search for the lost plane's black box flight recorders.

The Indonesia AirAsia airbus, which carried 162 passengers, plunged into the Java Sea last week. The plane was en route from Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya to Singapore.

In a statement, AirAsia said search and rescue officials had found four more bodies yesterday, taking the number of recovered bodies to 34. So far nine remains have been officially identified, they said.

Rescuers also found debris such as an emergency exit window, luggage, passenger seats and survival kits, which are believed to be from the missing jet.

In Surabaya, AirAsia Indonesia chief executive Sunu Widyatmoko handed over the remains of three victims to families yesterday afternoon, the company said.

Seven disaster victim identification experts from Singapore have arrived in Indonesia to help the process of identifying bodies.

Experts from South Korea and Australia are due to join identification efforts today.

The airline said the search operation area would also be expanded today to the east part of the Java Sea, following an underwater current forecast.

It said it would focus on deep sea diving in the areas the plane is said to be located.

Weather frustrates AirAsia search divers, no 'pings' detected

Bad weather forced divers trying to identify a sunken wreckage to abort their missionyesterday.

The weather has persistently hampered efforts to recover bodies and find the cockpit voice and flight data recorders that may explain why the AirAsia jet plunged into the sea.

"Conditions did not allow diving operations," the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, told a news conference in Jakarta.

"Our priority is to dive in the location we suspect parts of the plane to be."

The main focus of the search is about 90 nautical miles off the coast of Borneo island.

Five large objects believed to be parts of the plane - the largest about 18 metres long - have been pinpointed in the area by ships using sonar.

"Based on past experience, the black box is not far from the plane debris we have found," Mr Soelistyo said.

But he added that none of the searching ships had detected any "pings", the locator signals the black box should transmit after a crash.

Both flight recorders are located near the tail of the plane, but it was unclear whether that part of the aircraft was among the debris found on the seabed.

"Based on the finding of pieces of debris it looks like the body of the aircraft split or cracked and was separated from its tail," said Air Force Lt Col Johnson Supriyadi, a search and rescue official co-ordinating the operation from the southern Borneo town of Pangkalan Bun.

The suspected wreckage is lying in water around 30 metres deep, which experts said should make it relatively straightforward to recover.

Nine ships from four countries have converged on the area, with teams of divers including seven Russian experts standing ready. However, strong winds and four-metre high waves have kept progress agonisingly slow.

Indonesia's meteorological agency has said seasonal tropical storms probably contributed to last Sunday's crash.

The airline has come under pressure from Indonesian authorities, who have suspended its Surabaya to Singapore operations saying the carrier only had a licence to fly the route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Indonesia AirAsia said it would co-operate with the transport ministry while it investigates the licence.

A joint statement from Singapore's civil aviation authority (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group said that AirAsia had the necessary approvals to operate a daily flight between Surabaya and Singapore.

- ABC/Reuters

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