Indonesia halts search for AirAsia crash victims

Rescue agency delays search, allowing divers to rest, saying most bodies likely swept away from plane.

    Indonesia halts search for AirAsia crash victims
    The victims' bodies could be on the seabed, or have been swept away by waves and currents, authorities said [Reuters]

    Indonesian search and rescue authorities have said the remaining bodies from the AirAsia plane crash could have been swept away or lost on the seabed, and halted the search operation for two days to allow divers to rest.

    Flight QZ8501 went down in the Java Sea on December 28 in stormy weather with 162 people on board, during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

    So far just 70 bodies have been recovered, with 92 still missing.

    Authorities had hoped that the majority of the passengers and crew would be in the plane's main section, but after several days searching the fuselage, they said on Wednesday that no more bodies could be located.

    "They could be on the seabed, or have been swept away by waves and currents," S.B. Supriyadi, a search and rescue agency official who has been coordinating the hunt, told the AFP news agency.

    Operation halted

    The Indonesian military, which has provided the bulk of personnel and equipment for the operation, withdrew from the search on Tuesday due to the failure to find more victims, and after several failed attempts to lift the damaged fuselage.

    The national rescue agency announced early on Wednesday that the recovery of the victims would be halted for two days for divers to rest.

    The chief of the agency, Bambang Soelistyo, stressed that despite the announcement by the military, the recovery operation would continue for at least a week.

    Some divers were suffering from decompression sickness, which typically affects those who have ascended too quickly from great depth, or have not taken long enough breaks between dives, the agency said.

    Black boxes recovered

    The national rescue agency said that the main aim of the operation is to find more bodies, and not to lift the plane's fuselage, which has split in two.

    The jet's black boxes - the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder - have been recovered, and investigators are analysing them. A preliminary report into the accident was being expected to be completed this week.

    Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said last week that the plane climbed abnormally fast before stalling and plunging into the sea.

    Just moments before the plane disappeared off the radar, the pilot had asked to climb to avoid a major storm but was not immediately granted permission due to heavy air traffic.



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