Indonesia: Stormy weather Wednesday forced Indonesian rescuers to suspend their search for the bodies of those on Air Asia’s Flight QZ8501, which plunged into the water at the weekend carrying 162 people.
More than 48 hours after the Airbus A320-200 disappeared en route from Indonesia’s second largest city Surabaya to Singapore, aerial searchers found wreckage and bodies floating in the Java Sea on Tuesday.
‘We are experiencing bad weather now. Rains and winds prevented us from resuming the search operation this morning,’ air force rescue coordinator S.B. Supriyadi told AFP.
National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo told a press conference Wednesday that six bodies had now been recovered, including a woman in crew uniform.
‘As soon as the weather is clear, the bodies will be brought to Pangkalan Bun,’ the town with the nearest airstrip to the crash site, said Soelistyo.
Supriyadi said that hundreds of people from the military, police and national rescue agency were on standby waiting for clear weather in Pangkalan Bun.
The plane crashed into the Java Sea southwest of the island of Borneo, with debris including an exit door and a blue suitcase so far retrieved from the area.
A navy spokesman told AFP on Tuesday that more than 40 bodies had been recovered, but he later said that report was a miscommunication by his staff.
During Tuesday’s searches, an air force plane saw a ‘shadow’ on the seabed believed to be that of the missing flight, where all search efforts are now being concentrated, Soelistyo said.
President Joko Widodo met the passengers’ relatives in Surabaya on Tuesday, where a crisis centre has been set up, and he promised to ensure a massive search.
Flamboyant AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes also visited the centre and said he was experiencing an airline chief executive’s ‘worst nightmare’.
‘This is a scar with me for the rest of my life,’ he told reporters.
Relatives of passengers on the plane began crying hysterically and fainting on Tuesday as Indonesian television footage showed a body floating in the sea during aerial searches.
Earlier, an Indonesian navy spokesperson said a plane door, oxygen tanks and one body had been recovered and taken away by helicopter for tests.
‘The challenge is waves up to three metres high,’ Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, head of the Search and Rescue Agency, told reporters, adding that the search operation would go on all night. He declined to answer questions on whether any survivors had been found.
About 30 ships and 21 aircraft from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States have been involved in the search.