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A Break In Weather Allows Search For AirAsia Jet To Resume

An Indonesian police officer in Kumai port in Pangkalan Bun carries part of a plane found floating on the water near the site where AirAsia Flight 8501 disappeared on Sunday.
Achmad Ibrahim

Search teams resumed their hunt Thursday morning for the missing AirAsia jet that crashed Sunday with 162 people on board, The Associated Press reported.

"The visibility is good this morning, we are ready to fight with full force to search for bodies, wreckages (sic) that can reveal what went wrong with this accident," said Marshal Agus Dwi Putranto, an Indonesian Air Force Operation commander. He added that four aircraft were dispatched to the search area just after sunrise.

High winds and waves prevented divers from entering the water on Wednesday. Vice Air Marshal Sunarbowo Sandi, search and rescue coordinator in Pangkalan Bun, not far from where the plane went down, said strong currents have carried debris some 30 miles from where it was the day before.

"It's possible the bodies are in the fuselage," Sandi said on Thursday. "So it's a race now against time and weather."

So far, seven bodies have been pulled from the water. Suitcases and items from the aircraft have also been found floating in the Java Sea. Vice Air Marshall Sandi said he expects bodies to start showing up on local beaches.

Officials caution that it is too early to determine the cause of the crash. But a source who says he is close to investigators told Reutersthat radar indicates the plane made a steep climb before it crashed.

"So far, the numbers taken by the radar are unbelievably high," the unidentified source said. "This rate of climb is very high, too high. It appears to be beyond the performance envelope of the aircraft."

The pilots had asked air traffic control for permission to climb to 38,000 feet from 32,000 to avoid turbulent weather. The request was denied because of heavy traffic in the area. The flight was not heard from again.

Investigators are anxious to recover the black box, which contains the voice recorder. This should provide them with a better picture of what happened to the flight before it went missing Sunday morning.

The majority of passengers on the flight were Indonesians. Officials have asked relatives to provide DNA samples to help identify the dead.

On Wednesday, hundreds turned out for a vigil in Surabaya, where Flight QZ8501 originated. Candles were lit and prayers were held for victims of the AirAsia crash. New Year's Eve celebrations were canceled in East Java province, and toned down in others.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Martha Ann Overland
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