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Rescuers recover 22 bodies as hunt intensifies for AirAsia jet

Rescuers recover 22 bodies as hunt intensifies for AirAsia jet
The wreckage and bodies of people on board the ill-fated AirAsia jet that mysteriously crashed on Sunday are spread over an area of 5 kms in the Java Sea although search teams recovered 22 bodies and believe that many passengers are still strapped to their seats.

Multi-national rescuers equipped with sophisticated acoustic equipment today narrowed the search area for Airbus 320 flight’s crash site in the hunt for the black box recorders, as they recovered a total of 22 bodies so far out of the 162 and more debris from the choppy waters in the area.

Rear Marshal Henry Bambang Soelistyo, head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, said bad weather was a worry, with forecasts of rain, strong winds and high waves up to four metres till Sunday.

“There are two main tasks in this priority sector: First, to locate the biggest part of the plane’s body.
“The second task is to find the position of the black boxes, or flight recorders, which will be carried out by the KNKT (National Transport Safety committee) which start working today,” he said at a press conference.

He said wreckage and bodies are spread over an area of 5 kms of the Java Sea off Borneo and the search was now focusing on an area of 1,575 square nautical miles.

The Frog Troops will dive to the bed of the Java Sea as the joint Search and Rescue (SAR) operation team believes that many of the passengers of the AirAsia Flight QZ8501 are still strapped into their seats in the plane wreckage.

The plane en route from Indonesia’s Surabaya city to Singapore mysteriously disappeared from radar on Sunday.

“Divers are already on standby at the navy ship Banda Aceh to dive on that priority area to locate the body of the plane,” he said. “I hope we’ll get a significant result today.”

“We will focus on underwater detection,” said Soelistyo, as international experts from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, France and the US equipped with sophisticated acoustic detection gear also joined the search. Over 90 vessels and aircraft involved in rescue operation, said AirAsia.

Of the 22 bodies recovered so far, eight have been transported to Surabaya. Three Indonesians, including stewardess Khairunnisa Haidar, passengers Grayson Herbert Linaksita and Kevin Alexander Soetjipto, were identified based on fingerprints and medical records. It came after the identity of passenger Hayati Lutfiah Hami was confirmed.

Two Russian planes with 72 rescue personnel and sonars, diving equipment and drones have arrived in Indonesia to join search.

France’s BEA crash probe agency, which attends the crashes of all Airbus planes, was also on the scene with two hydrophones, or underwater acoustic detection devices. Soelistyo said the search would be stepped up as long as the weather allowed.

“The waves could reach five metres this afternoon. Higher than yesterday,” said air force pilot Flight Captain Tatag Onne, who has been flying missions to recover bodies and debris from the sea.
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