10 more bodies were recovered from the AirAsia crash site arrived in Surabaya, Indonesia on Friday night.
After nearly a week of searching for the victims of Flight 8501, rescue teams battling monsoon rains recovered 21 bodies on Friday, bringing the total to 30, officials said.
Some of the bodies pulled from the Java Sea were still strapped to their seats.
In addition to looking for victims, Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said ships from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. are scouring the ocean floor as they try to pinpoint wreckage and the all-important black boxes.
The data recorder contains crucial information like engine temperature and vertical and horizontal speed; the voice recorder saves conversations between pilots and other sounds coming from inside the cockpit.
“Now, the two ships are struggling against huge waves toward Pangkalan Bun, but so far they have not arrived,” Sulistyo added.
He said that huge waves up to five meters high hampered search and rescue operations on Friday. A drizzle and light clouds covered the area Friday, and rain, strong winds and high waves were forecast until Sunday. Strong sea currents have also kept debris moving.
Nine planes, many with metal detecting equipment, were also scouring a 13,500-square-km area off Pangkalan Bun. “We will focus on underwater detection,” said Sulistyo, adding that ships from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States had been on the scene since early Friday to try to locate wreckage and flight data and cockpit voice recorders.
Flight path OF AirAsia 8501
The multi-national search operation based in Pangkalan Bun, the town in southern Borneo closest to the search area, was bolstered on Friday by experts from France’s BEA accident investigation agency, which attends all Airbus crashes.
Officials said the French team’s hydrophones – sophisticated underwater acoustic detection devices – and towed sonar equipment brought by other international experts could not be used because of high waves.
But naval vessels from Indonesia, the United States and Singapore with in-built anti-submarine capabilities were using sonar to sweep the sea floor.
The Airbus A320 carrying 162 passengers and crew went down on 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.
It remains unclear what caused the plane to plunge into the sea.
Report was compiled with information from The Associated Press, Reuters and Xinhua.
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