AirAsia QZ8501: Poor weather, rising seas frustrate search efforts

AirAsia QZ8501: Poor weather, rising seas frustrate search efforts
Indonesia Marine divers prepares their gear on deck of SAR ship Purworejo for search operation of passenger onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 at Kumai port, Pangkalan Bun.

PANGKALAN BUN: Search teams looking for the sunken wreck of an AirAsia jet off Borneo struggled to resume full-scale operations on Thursday after a small window of fine weather closed, giving way to rising seas, which have dogged the search from the start.

As dawn broke, revealing blue skies, hopes had risen for divers to be able to investigate what is believed to be the fuselage of the Airbus A320-200, which was carrying 162 people when it crashed on Sunday during stormy weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

"Clouds have started to descend again...and the weather conditions will deteriorate again," search and rescue official Tatang Zaenudin told TV, adding that the conditions would limit air searches.

"For the sea search, we will continue."

A team of 47 Indonesian Navy divers is on standby to go down to a large, dark object detected by sonar on the ocean floor, lying just 30-50 meters (100-165 feet) deep. If it is the AirAsia plane, divers would look to retrieve its black boxes.

None of the tell-tale black box "pings" had been detected, an official said.

Investigators are working on a theory that the plane went into an aerodynamic stall as it climbed steeply to avoid a storm about 40 minutes into the flight.

So far, at least seven bodies have been recovered from waters near the suspected crash site, along with debris such a suitcase, an emergency slide and a life jacket.

The bodies are being taken in numbered coffins to Surabaya, where relatives of the victims have gathered, for identification. Authorities have been collecting DNA from the relatives to help identify the bodies.

Most of the 162 people on board were Indonesians. No survivors have been found.

Relatives, many of whom collapsed in grief when they saw the first grim television pictures confirming their fears on Tuesday, held prayers at a crisis center at Surabaya airport.

 

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