Strong currents hamper underwater search in new location

Strong currents hamper underwater search in new location
The remotely operated vehicle on board the MV Swift Rescue was lowered into the water yesterday at a new location, where it stayed for about 45 minutes. With visibility less than a metre, operators were unable to locate any debris.

As the search focus for the ill-fated AirAsia Flight QZ8501 shifts to underwater operations, a remotely operated vehicle on board Singapore's MV Swift Rescue was launched for the first time at a new location yesterday.

But it did not find anything at the site, given by Indonesia's search and rescue agency, Basarnas, at 11.30am, as visibility was affected by strong underwater currents.

The location - which the MV Swift Rescue started scanning at about 3.05pm - is one of five sites identified by Basarnas where there are parts of the plane under water.

Flight QZ8501 disappeared one hour into its flight from Surabaya to Singapore on Dec 28. All 162 passengers and crew on board are presumed dead. The cause of the crash is as yet unknown.

The call for the submersible machine, which is remotely controlled from its support and rescue vessel, was made after the Indonesian authorities provided a scan of the area, said Major Wee Hong Tat, deputy officer-commanding of the MV Swift Rescue. At about 5.55pm, the submersible, loaded with sensors, lights and cameras, was lowered into the water, where it stayed for about 45 minutes. However, operators failed to locate any debris with visibility less than a metre.

At about 5.55pm, the submersible, loaded with sensors, lights and cameras, was lowered into the water, where it stayed for about 45 minutes. However, operators failed to locate any debris with visibility less than a metre.

The wind speed was at 10 knots and the sea state - the degree of turbulence measured on a scale of one to 12 - was at two. This was an improvement from Sunday, so the vessel was able to cover more ground.

Today marks the eighth day the MV Swift Rescue will be at sea.

It is one of three Singaporean vessels - the other two being RSS Persistence and RSS Kallang - currently searching the Java Sea for parts of the plane. A six-man Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) team is also part of the group from Singapore.

The RSS Valour, a Victory- class missile corvette which left Singapore on the day of the crash, returned to Tuas Naval Base yesterday, after assisting in the Indonesian-led operation for eight days.

The vessel was received by Chief of Navy Lai Chung Han and other senior officers.

In a press statement, Rear-Admiral Lai thanked the personnel involved in the search for "working tirelessly, amidst challenging weather conditions".

He said: "Our people have given their all and their best during the multinational search operation."

A second ship, RSS Supreme, has also made its way back to Singapore for replenishments after spending more than a week at sea.

To date, the Republic has deployed more than 400 personnel, two C-130 aircraft, two Super Puma helicopters, five navy ships and a six-man AUV team.

awcw@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 6, 2015.
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