AirAsia plane disappears
AirAsia Flight QZ8501 with 155 people on board -- including one British, one Malaysian, one Singaporean, three South Koreans, 149 Indonesians -- and seven crew members -- six Indonesians and a French co-pilot -- lost contact with air traffic control at 0724 local time Indonesia (0454 IST). There were no Indian nationals on board.
A massive search operation launched to locate the Airbus A320-200 with two Indonesian military aircraft and a chopper scouring the seas was called off for the day due to bad weather and darkness, 11 hours after the plane disappeared, and will be resumed tomorrow morning, officials said.
Contact with the plane, which took off from Surabaya (Indonesia) at 5:20 am local time and was scheduled to land at Singapore’s Changi Airport at 8:30 am, was lost 42 minutes after takeoff.
Sixteen children and one infant were among the passengers on board the plane with the registration number PK-AXC. Indonesian officials earlier said the plane was several hours past the time when its fuel would have been exhausted. There were unconfirmed media reports that a aircraft crashed in the waters of East Belitung, off the east coast of Sumatra. The exact location of the crash site has not been identified, media reports said.
However, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai denied claims that wreckage of the aircraft had been found. Asked about reports that the missing flight has crashed in Belintung, Liow confirmed the reports to be false. “There is plenty of speculation that they have found the plane. At this point in time that is not true.
We are still looking for the plane,” Liow said. A statement on AirAsia’s Facebook page said: “AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 0724 hrs this morning.” Indonesian Transport Ministry official Hadi Mustofa said the plane had asked for an unusual route before it lost contact.
Air Asia said the pilots requested “deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control.”
The Indonesia air transportation director said the pilot requested to increase altitude to 38,000 feet from 32,000 feet to “avoid clouds.” Thunderstorms were reported in the area with clouds up to 50,000 feet, Indonesian officials said.
Indonesian media reports said three areas where the plane was suspected to have lost contact were combed for about two hours with no success.
The AirAsia flight went missing this morning, more than 200 nautical miles southeast of the Singapore-Jakarta Flight Information Region boundary.
A two-year-old girl, travelling with her father, a British national, was on board the flight. Her mother, a Singaporean, had travelled back to Singapore earlier from Surabaya with the child’s older sibling.
Singapore’s Changi Airport Group confirmed that 47 relatives and friends of 57 passengers on board the missing Air Asia flight have registered at the relative’s holding area at airport’s Terminal 2.
Help and support is being offered to them by 36 Changi Airport Group care officers and four counsellors from Singapore’s Ministry of Social and Family Development, Channel News Asia reported.Arrangements for local accommodation or for travel to Indonesia have been made for next-of-kin.
Officials said three AirAsia flights from Singapore were re-scheduled on Sunday.
Earlier, Indonesia accepted Singapore’s offer to assist in the search operations of the missing aircraft.
The Singapore Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC), managed by the CAAS and supported by various agencies, including the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), had offered assistance to Basarnas.
“We have offered our planes and ships to assist in the search, and received confirmation from the Indonesian authorities this afternoon at 1430 hours to accept our offer, requesting for one C130 for now,” officials at CAAS said. “We have already launched it to assist with the search and locate efforts,” they said.
Indonesia AirAsia has confirmed that one Singaporean is on board the missing flight.”We have already made contact with the relatives of the Singaporean and are providing them with all necessary assistance and support,” they said. The missing Singaporean was not named.
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