Tuesday, December 30, 2014


    Jakarta, Dec 30, 2014 (Antara) -- Despite bad weather hindering search and rescue (SAR) operations, Indonesian authorities deployed their maritime and air forces to the best of their capabilities on Tuesday to find the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501.
        Their efforts paid off as they finally discovered debris of the airplane, which had 162 people on board and had gone missing on Sunday (December 28).
         Debris of the Singapore-bound aircraft and six bodies were spotted floating in Java Sea near Karimata Strait, which is located between Sumatra and the Kalimantan islands, around 95 nautical miles (Nm) from Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan province.

         The debris was found when two Indonesian Air Force aircraft, CN295 piloted by Captain Ammad and Hercules C130 piloted by Major Akal Juang, were dispatched to Java Sea and the Karimata Strait, respectively, to search for the missing airplane on Tuesday morning.
        Upon receiving news that debris and six bodies had been found, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo decided to immediately fly from Jakarta to Java Sea aboard the Indonesian Air Force's Hercules C130 to monitor the SAR operations. He later flew to Juanda International Airport in Surabaya to meet with the families and relatives of the victims.
          At a press conference held upon his arrival in Surabaya, the head of state said that the government had pressed into service all its resources to locate the missing AirAsia jet that had 162 people aboard.
        The president stated that the government will conduct massive search operations to find the Airbus A320-200 jet and determine the fate of its passengers and crew members on Wednesday (December 31).
         "All parties are involved in the massive search operations to find the AirAsia plane, its passengers and crew," he affirmed. 
      He also ordered for the search operations to be sped up and carried out optimally, despite bad weather conditions in the form of thick clouds and huge waves of heights of up to three meters.
         Furthermore, the president appreciated everyone involved for their support towards the efforts to find the missing AirAsia jet.
         "I thank our neighboring countries, Singapore, Australia, and Malaysia, for their help in the search for the AirAsia flight," he noted.
        Jokowi added that the government had also conveyed its deepest sympathy to the families of the passengers aboard the AirAsia aircraft.
          "Let us all pray for the victims' families to be given the strength and fortitude required to face this tragedy," he said.
         So far, the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) has deployed 21 divers to look for AirAsia flight QZ8051 in the waters of Java Sea. At least two Indonesian warships, including KRI Bung Tomo, were already in the rough waters of the sea to support the processes.
         "Some 21 divers, including 11 Indonesian Navy personnel and 10 rescue team members, will search the AirAsia debris site," Chief of the Basarnas Vice Marshal F. H. Bambang Soelistyo affirmed.
         Of the six bodies spotted floating in the waters, three---two women and one man---were brought aboard KRI Bung Tomo and were sent to Pangkalan Bun, before being flown to Surabaya.
        The SAR team also discovered a life jacket and an emergency exit door. Part of the plane's interior, including an oxygen tank, was brought to Pangkalan Bun, along with a blue suitcase, which was found in good condition.
         Moreover, the Basarnas has yet to determine the number of victims of AirAsia QZ8501 and get details about the bodies found, Soelistyo stated, adding that he hoped some of the victims survived.
         "We do not have exact figures. But we hope some survived," he added.
         He further noted that bad weather and high waves had hindered their efforts to track down the missing AirAsia plane so far.
         "We will continue our search operations tomorrow. Waves reaching heights of two to three meters and bad weather have posed as obstacles," Soelistyo told the press.
          The Singapore-bound AirAsia plane, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact a few minutes after taking off from Juanda International Airport, Surabaya, East Java, on Sunday morning. It was believed to have gone missing in the waters between Sumatra and the Kalimantan islands.  
    Before losing contact, the pilots of the missing jet had asked to climb higher to avoid bad weather over the sea between Bangka Belitung in Sumatra and West Kalimantan. There was bad weather over Belitung at the time, and the aircraft had been flying at 32,000 feet before asking to fly at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds.
        The AirAsia flight QZ8501 was carrying 155 passengers and seven crew members on board. 
   According to AirAsia Indonesia, seven foreigners---six passengers and one pilot---were among those aboard the missing plane.    
   The foreign nationals included three Koreans, a Singaporean, a Briton, a Malaysian, and a French first officer.
         The other 149 passengers, a pilot, a technician and four cabin crew members were Indonesians.
         Captain Iriyanto and First Officer Remi Emmanuel Plesel were the two pilots aboard the jet, along with four cabin crew members Wanti Setiawati, Khairunnisa Haidar Fauzi, Oscar Desano, and Wismoyo Ari Prambudi, and technician Saiful Rakhmad.
         Moreover, a number of countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, South Korea, China, India, the United States, and Britain, have offered to help in the search for the missing flight and related investigations.
        On the third day of the search operations, bad weather posed as a hindrance to the search operations, which involved seven foreign ships seeking entry into the waters of East Belitung to locate the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501.
        "Currently, several foreign ships are docking off Manggar, waiting for the weather to improve," Head of the Manggal Naval Post Second Lieutenant Purwanto in Manggar, Bangka Belitung province, noted on Tuesday (December 30).
         Of the seven foreign ships, two are from Singapore and one, each, is from Australia, India, Malaysia, China, and South Korea.
         On Wednesday (December 31), all SAR efforts will be focused in Java Sea with Pangkalan Bun as the temporary headquarters of the operations, which have been described as massive by President Jokowi.

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