5:16 pm - Tuesday May 23, 3780

AirAsia QZ8501: Bad weather hampers recovery of bodies

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Efforts to locate victims and wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501 which crashed into the Java Sea in Indonesia on Sunday are being hampered by stormy weather and strong tides.

Indonesian officials have confirmed that remains and debris found in the waters off Borneo are from the plane.

The authorities say that seven bodies have now been retrieved.

The Airbus A320-200, carrying 162 people from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore, disappeared on Sunday.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has promised a “massive search by the ships and helicopters” with the focus on recovering the bodies of victims.

A public memorial will be held in Surabaya on Wednesday evening local time, and the governor of East Java province has told the BBC that all New Year Eve celebrations have been cancelled.

“Now we are focused on praying for the victims,” said Soekarwo, who uses one name like many Indonesians. “This is a big tragedy for Indonesia and we will do our best for the victims and their families.”As the relatives of the QZ8501 passengers and crew wait for the bodies of their loved ones to return to Surabaya, the Indonesian officials are trying to assure them that everything is being done to ensure a swift process.

It is day four since the aircraft went missing from the radar and concerns are growing that the remains will be too difficult to identify. News of bad weather hampering the recovery efforts is another setback for the grieving relatives.

Many say the government and Air Asia have been handling the tragedy as well as they could but all the relatives want is for their loved ones to be properly identified so they can be laid to rest.Aircraft from several countries were set to scan the sea in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Divers were also being deployed to search for bodies and for the plane’s “black box” flight recorders.

But officials said heavy rain, strong winds and waves of up to 3m (10ft) had forced them to suspend the air operation, though ships already in place were continuing the search.The head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, Bambang Soelistyo, said another body had been retrieved from the sea on Wednesday, bringing the total to seven. One was a woman wearing cabin crew uniform.

The bodies are on board two ships but helicopters sent to bring them back to the nearest town, Pangkalan Bun, have had to turn back because of the weather, he said.

The navy had reported on Tuesday that more than 40 bodies had been recovered, but spokesman Manahan Simorangkir later told AFP news agency the figure had been a miscommunication by his staff.

‘Shadow’ under water
On board the plane were 137 adult passengers, 17 children and one infant, along with two pilots and five crew.

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