Japan pitches in as hunt intensifies for AirAsia jet

Japan pitches in as hunt intensifies for AirAsia jet
A crew member of the Japanese destroyer Onami searches for signs of the crashed AirAsia plane.

PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia - The Japan Self-Defence Forces have stepped up their assistance in the search for the AirAsia jetliner that crashed into the sea off the Indonesian coast, part of a growing international effort with 12 countries sending in equipment and experts.

The Maritime Self-Defence Force destroyer Onami recovered a body believed to be from the crashed plane Tuesday. The MSDF now has three helicopters on two ships operating in the search zone. On their way home after an anti-piracy mission off the African coast, the vessels arrived Saturday evening at the Indonesian government's request.

AirAsia Indonesia Flight QZ8501 vanished on an Indonesia-Singapore flight Dec. 28, carrying 162 passengers and crew members. Search teams from various countries are focusing on an area where parts of the wreckage were discovered Dec. 30. Malaysia and Singapore were the first to begin the search, and teams from the US, South Korea and Russia have since joined. The United Arab Emirates has sent specialists to identify bodies. A Chinese ship is expected to arrive in the search zone later this week.

Indonesia's search-and-rescue chief said Wednesday that part of the plane's tail has been found. The tail houses the aircraft's voice and flight data recorders. Recovering these so-called black boxes would give investigators clues as to what caused the crash.

The water in the search zone is only about 30 meters deep, but underwater work has been hampered by heavy rain and sudden gusts. Only 40 or so bodies have been recovered in 10 days since the crash.

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