Indonesia will expand the scope of search for more bodies from AirAsia Flight 8501, chief of the Indonesian national search and rescue center Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo said at a press conference on Monday.
“At present, three more bodies have been found in the core searching area and were sent to Pangkalan Bun airport. So 37 bodies have been recovered at present. And we found some plane objects such as aircraft seats in the core searching area as well,” said Soelistyo.
Soelistyo said that divers were frustrated with the underwater recovery as the bad weather condition hampered the operations of searching and detecting the black box. He added that Indonesia would expand their search to the east.
Sonar has identified five large pieces of what’s believed to be chunks of the fuselage on the ocean floor.
Indonesia’s chief of armed forces said on Monday that relatives of AirAsia crash victims would be offered a chance to visit the site where the plane crashed into the sea, to scatter flowers and say goodbye.
General Moeldoko made the comments at a press conference in Surabaya.
The Chief of Indonesian police General Sutarman also emphasized to reporters that however bad their condition, they will make sure all bodies of the aircrash victims will be identified and returned to their families.
Since the plane’s disappearance, a massive international hunt has been underway.
An Indonesian naval search and rescue ship returned to Surabaya port on Monday (January 5) with parts of the wreckage of the AirAsia Airbus A320-200 which disappeared from radar screens on a routine flight a week ago.
The warship, Bung Tomo Asia, recovered bodies during its one-week sailing off the coast of Borneo island and picked up debris such as seats and parts of the plane’s body, said the ship captain Yayan Sofyan.
“We retrieved ten bodies during our one-week operation and several objects which mostly were parts of Air Asia plane. All objects will be handed over to KNKT (National Committee of Safety Transportation),” said Sofyan, referring to the agency leading the investigation of the cause of the incident.
The main focus of the search is about 90 nautical miles off the coast of Borneo island, where five large objects believed to be parts of the plane – the largest about 18 metres (59 feet) long – have been pinpointed in shallow waters by ships using sonar.
Both flight recorders are located near the tail of the Airbus, but it was unclear whether that part of the aircraft was among the debris found on the seabed.
Indonesia’s meteorological agency has said seasonal tropical storms probably contributed to the Jan. 28 crash.
Until investigators can examine the recorders the cause of the crash remains unknown, but the area is known for intense seasonal storms.
Highlighting the depth of Indonesia’s air safety problems, the transportation ministry announced harsh measures Monday against everyone who allowed AirAsia Flight 8501 to take off without proper permits — including the suspension of the airport’s operator and officials in the control tower.
The routing permits of all airlines flying in the country also will be examined to see if they are violating the rules, said Djoko Murjatmodjo, acting director general of air transportation.
“Who knows if other airlines are also doing the same thing,” he said.
The crackdown comes as searchers continue to fight bad weather while combing the Java Sea for bodies and wreckage of the Airbus A320 that crashed Dec. 28, killing all 162 passengers and crew on board.
The plane was traveling between Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, and Singapore on a Sunday. Officials have since said its permit for the popular route was only for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and that AirAsia quietly switched three of those days. Officials in Singapore, however, have said the plane was authorized to fly on Sundays from its end.
Applications for specific routes take into account issues including air traffic rights and airport takeoff and landing slots.
While the airline is being investigated, Indonesia has banned all AirAsia flights between Surabaya and Singapore.
AirAsia Indonesia President Director Sunu Widyatmoko said by text Monday that the airline will cooperate with the government during the evaluation, but would not comment on the permit allegations until the process is complete.
Report compiled with information from The Associated Press, Reuters and CCTV News.
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