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AirAsia QZ8501 rescue teams find 30 bodies, some still belted in seats

After nearly a week of searching for the victims of AirAsia flight 8501, rescue teams battling monsoon rains had their most successful day yet, more than tripling the number of bodies pulled from the Java Sea, some still strapped to their seats.

world Updated: Jan 04, 2015 02:45 IST
AirAsia-flight-debris
AirAsia-flight-debris

After nearly a week of searching for the victims of AirAsia flight 8501, rescue teams battling monsoon rains had their most successful day yet, more than tripling the number of bodies pulled from the Java Sea, some still strapped to their seats.

Of the 30 corpses recovered so far, 21 were found on yesterday, many of them by a US Navy ship, according to officials. The Airbus A320 carrying 162 passengers and crew went down Sunday, halfway into a flight from Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, to Singapore.

Minutes before losing contact, the pilot told air traffic control he was approaching threatening clouds, but was denied permission to climb to a higher altitude because of heavy air traffic.

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A member of the Indonesia Red Cross prepares coffins for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 at the main hospital in Pangkalan Bun. (AP Photo)

It remains unclear what caused the plane to plunge into the sea. The accident was AirAsia's first since it began operations in 2001, quickly becoming one of the region's most popular low-cost carriers.

Indonesian authorities on Saturday grounded AirAsia flights from Surabaya to Singapore, with the transport ministry saying the airline did not have a permit to fly on Sundays.

AirAsia said it was reviewing the suspension. Search teams aboard 13 aircraft and 30 ships expanded their hunt for victims and wreckage on Saturday, although 3-meter (10-foor) high waves continued to slow down the operation, said National Search and Rescue Agency Director of Operations Suryadi B Supriyadi.

The vessels included eight sophisticated navy ships from Singapore, Malaysia and the US equipped with sonars for scouring the seabed to pinpoint wreckage and the all-important black boxes.

"Many of passengers believed to be still trapped inside the plane's fuselage and could be discovered soon," Supriyadi said, "God willing, we would complete this operation next week."

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Indonesian military personnel carry the coffin containing the remains of Khairunisa Binti Haidar Fauzi, one of the flight attendants from the ill-fated Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501. (AFP Photo)

'Two large objects' found during search operations

The Airbus A320-200 plunged into the Java Sea on Sunday while en route from Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya to Singapore. No survivors have been found.

"We have detected two objects underwater (at) 30 metres depth," said search and rescue agency chief Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo. "At this moment we are operating the ROV to take pictures of the objects."

A multi-national task force of ships, planes and helicopters have been scouring the northern Java Sea and coastline of southern Borneo to recover the bodies of victims and locate the wreck of Flight QZ8501 and its black box flight recorders.

The two objects were found just before midnight on Friday, Soelistyo told a news conference in Jakarta, and the search and rescue agency was attempting to get images using remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV).

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Family members of identified victims onboard the ill-fated Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501 cry as they wait to take the remains of their loved ones, at the police hospital in Surabaya. (AFP Photo)