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AirAsia crash: Search teams 'find two large objects'

Two objects have been spotted which are about 30 metres under water and located near an oil slick spotted on Saturday, Bambang Soelistyo, chief of Indonesia's search and rescue agency Basarnas, said.

The objects were found at the bottom of the sea near Pangkalan Bun. One of the objects was measured at 9.4 metres by 4.8 metres and a half-metre high. The other, found nearby, was 7.2 metres by a half metre.

"With the discovery of an oil spill and two big parts of the aircraft, I can assure you these are the parts of the AirAsia plane we have been looking for," Soelistyo said.

"We are lowering a ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) underwater to get an actual picture of the objects detected on the sea floor. All are at the depth of 30m," he said, adding that a strong current was making it difficult to operate the underwater vehicle.

Three vessels sent out to a sea area where the oil slick was spotted located the "two objects...that are close to each other," said Soelistyo.

Till now 30 bodies have been retrieved from the Java Sea.

However, continuing bad weather has held back efforts to hunt for the plane's data recorders.

Soelistyo told reporters that the two objects represent the main part of the Airbus A320 that lost contact with air-traffic control on Sunday morning with 162 people on board.

A piece of debris resembling a window panel has also been found, Singapore's Defense Ministry said. Also yesterday, a piece was found that appeared to belong to a plane's fuselage -- its main body, Singapore officials said.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's transport ministry said last night that the AirAsia plane was travelling at a flight time that had not been cleared by officials. It was not permitted to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on Sundays.

"It violated the route permit given, the schedule given, that's the problem," director-general of air transport Djoko Murjatmodjo said. He added that AirAsia's permit for the route has been frozen until investigations are completed.

AirAsia Indonesia is only allowed to ply that route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but had done so on Sundays as well.

Authorities are also investigating the possibility that the pilot, Captain Irianto, did not ask for a weather report from the meteorological agency at the time of takeoff.

Pilots were required to do so before flying, media reports said.

Indonesia AirAsia, however, said in a statement that weather reports were printed in hard copy at the operations control centre at all its flight hubs, including Surabaya, and taken by the pilot to the aircraft before each flight.

Even as Indonesia said it had suspended Indonesia AirAsia's operations on the route, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Changi Airport Group (CAG) said it has given approval to the airlines's Surabaya-Singapore flight operations.

Indonesian Agency for Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics has said that the most probable cause of the crash could be icing in the cloud that damaged the plane engine.

An initial analysis by Indonesian weather agency BMKG has found that conditions at the time of the plane's disappearance suggest it likely flew into a storm.

"From our data it looks like the last location of the plane had very bad weather and it was the biggest factor behind the crash," said Professor Edvin Aldrian, head of research at BMKG.

He said there was evidence of extremely icy conditions at the plane's altitude, which can "stall the engines of the plane and freeze and damage the plane's machinery."

Officials have said the plane was travelling at 32,000ft when it requested to climb to 38,000ft to avoid bad weather.

Some investigators are reported to believe that the plane may have gone into an aerodynamic stall as the pilot climbed steeply.

Meanwhile, the US Navy's combat ship, USS Fort Worth, was expected to join the search for the wreckage.

Finding the fuselage and black box of the Airbus A320-200 are of priority for the 59 diving teams searching underneath the waves. Russia has sent 22 of them along with a search plane and a cargo jet.

Search teams are currently deploying remotely operated vehicles to take a closer look at the wreckage before sending divers. But high waves and strong current are still hampering search efforts.

Recovery teams are encountering rough seas with waves of up to 4 metres, and winds of 20 to 30 knots, Malaysia's Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar said on Twitter.

An area, measuring 57 by 10 nautical miles, has been drawn for underwater search for the ill-fated Flight QZ8501.

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