Grim AirAsia search for bodies hampered by storms

31 Dec 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

AirAsia News Guide: Slow recovery, prayer for kin.

The recovery team looking for the crash site of missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 has found a large dark object lying on the seabed that is presumed to be the plane’s fuselage. Stormy weather has hindered the efforts of rescuers to recover the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501, even as a seventh body was pulled from the Java Sea Wednesday. The object was found in the Sea of Java off the coast of Borneo “about 30 to 50 meters under water,” confirmed Mochamad Hernanto, an Indonesian official with the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS).

Heavy rain, wind, and thick clouds have prevented divers from carrying out their recovery operations and largely grounded helicopters, though ships were still scouring the area. The bodies were taken from an air force plane to a military ambulance to be transported to a hospital for examination and identification — but many exhausted families were left waiting for news as bad weather hampered search efforts. Ships and planes involved in the operation to find the doomed plane resumed on Wednesday, but are being hampered by unfavorable weather conditions in the area. The Indonesian AirAsia Airbus A320-200 carrying 162 people disappeared on Sunday morning amid poor weather as it was flying from Indonesia’s second-largest city of Surabaya to Singapore.

In Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya, where the plane had departed for Singapore early on Sunday, drained and emotional relatives of the 162 people on board gathered at a crisis centre to hand over documents and medical records. “I am anxious to know if the rescuers have found their bodies. Another victim was wearing a life jacket, which may raise questions about whether the passengers may have known that the plane was going down, despite the lack of a distress call from the pilots. “One individual with a life jacket doesn’t tell much,” Greg Waldron, the Asia managing editor for industry publication Flightglobal, told The Wall Street Journal. “It could be a person who thought that the plane was going down and put the life jacket on. Police in Surabaya said they had taken DNA from 30 immediate family members to assist with the identification of bodies at a local hospital, to which the crisis centre is also being shifted. Sonar images also identified what appeared to be large parts of the plane, but Indonesia’s forecasters said that the conditions would worsen with more intense rains through Friday. The airliner’s disappearance halfway through a two-hour flight between Surabaya, Indonesia, and Singapore triggered an international search for the aircraft involving dozens of planes, ships and helicopters.

The plane needs to be located and its cockpit voice and flight data recorders, or black boxes, recovered before officials can start determining what caused the crash. Images of the debris and a bloated body shown on Indonesian television sent a spasm of anguish through the room at the Surabaya airport where relatives awaited news. Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch has sent an investigator carrying “specialist technical equipment” that can help to locate flight recorders. However, Surabaya airport general manager Trikora Hardjo later said the trip was canceled after authorities suggested it would slow down the operation.

Accompanying Singaporean experts, the investigator is travelling to the site on an Indonesian naval vessel, according to the British embassy in Jakarta. Another find included a bright blue plastic suitcase, completely unscratched. “I know the plane has crashed, but I cannot believe my brother and his family are dead,” said Ifan Joko, who lost seven family members, three of them children, as they traveled to Singapore to ring in the new year. “We still pray they are alive.” Rescue workers descended on ropes from a hovering helicopter to retrieve bodies. Before take-off the pilot of QZ8501 had asked for permission to fly at a higher altitude to avoid the storm, but his request was not approved due to other planes above him on the popular route, according to AirNav, Indonesia’s air traffic control. The CEO of Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia, Malaysian tycoon Tony Fernandes, tweeted Wednesday that the “reality of seeing the (victims) and some of my aircraft parts are soul destroying.” Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. Philip Mantofa urged the crowd to hold onto their faith, despite their pain. “Some things do not make sense to us, but God is bigger than all this,” he said. “Our God is not evil … help us God to move forward even though we are surrounded by darkness.” Before breaking up, those gathered stood together and sang with their hands reaching upward: “I surrender all.

Authorities in Surabaya were making preparations to receive and identify bodies, including arranging 130 ambulances to take victims to a police hospital and collecting DNA from relatives. The fully-clothed bodies indicate the Airbus A320-200 was intact when it hit the water and support a theory that it suffered an aerodynamic stall. “The fact that the debris appears fairly contained suggests the aircraft broke up when it hit the water, rather than in the air,” said Neil Hansford, a former pilot and chairman of consultancy firm Strategic Aviation Solutions. To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here. When TV broadcast an image of a half-naked man floating in the water, a shirt partially covering his head, many of the family members screamed and wailed uncontrollably. Strong wind and waves hampered the search and with visibility at less than a kilometre (half a mile), the air operation was called off in the afternoon.

Three vessels of Singapore Navy have change their original search area for the wreckage of an AirAsia plane and are expected to reach their new location this morning, a media report said. President Joko Widodo met the victims’ families in Surabaya on Tuesday and promised “a massive search” effort, with priority given to recovering bodies of the passengers and crew. The United States, Australia, Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia are among the countries helping in the search effort, which comes at the end of an awful year for Malaysian air travel. Online discussion among pilots has centred on unconfirmed secondary radar data from Malaysia that suggested the aircraft was climbing at a speed of 353 knots, about 100 knots too slow, and that it might have stalled. Investigators are focusing initially on whether the crew took too long to request permission to climb, or could have ascended on their own initiative earlier, said a source close to the inquiry, adding that poor weather could have played a part as well.

Supriyadi added that hundreds of people from the military, police and national rescue agency were on standby waiting for clear weather in Pangkalan Bun. We couldn’t have stopped her.” AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes, the airline’s founder and public face and a constant presence in Indonesia since the tragedy started unfolding, said he planned to travel to the recovery site on Wednesday. “I have apologized profusely for what they are going through,” he said of his contact with relatives. “I am the leader of this company, and I have to take responsibility. The AirAsia group, including affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, had not suffered a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002.

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