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Divers hunt for bodies in crashed AirAsia jet’s fuselage

Part of the tail of AirAsia QZ8501 floats on the surface after being lifted as Indonesian navy divers conduct search operations for the black box flight recorders and passengers and crew of the aircraft, in the Java Sea

Jakarta/Singapore: Divers today searched the sunken fuselage of the crashed AirAsia jet in the Java Sea to retrieve the missing bodies of the 162 people killed in the disaster, a day after the main wreck was located in the choppy waters after over two weeks of multi-national hunt.

The fuselage of the crashed AirAsia Flight QZ8501 was found by a Singaporean Navy vessel yesterday about 3 kms from where the tail of the aircraft was pulled from the seabed.

Officials believe the fuselage – attached to part of a wing, the wreckage 26 metres long – contains the remaining bodies of victims who boarded the ill-fated Airbus A320-200, en route from Indonesia’s Surabaya city to Singapore on December 28. Only 50 bodies have been recovered so far.

Two bodies were retrieved yesterday. AirAsia confirmed in its latest statement that 38 bodies have been identified.

The past week has been significant in the slow-moving search that has persistently been hampered by bad weather, with the recovery of the crucial black box as well as the tail section of the jet.

The black box recorders are expected to shed new light on the mysterious crash and investigators may need up to a month to determine what caused the AirAsia group’s first fatal accident half way into a two-hour flight, though seasonal storms are believed to have been a factor.

Chief of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency BASARNAS Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo today said the operation to lift the fuselage from the seabed has so far failed. Authorities have been attempting to lift the fuselage with balloons.

The mission to locate the victims will continue, even if no bodies are found in the fuselage, he said, adding success and failure is part of every mission, and that once the mission is no longer effective or efficient, the operation will end.

A team of 15 divers plunged into the water early today to examine the main portion of the jet, and will determine whether the wreckage can be lifted by using large balloons or if bodies need to be retrieved separately if found inside it, search and rescue agency coordinator S B Supriyadi said.

“We will wait for the calculation results from the divers on which one is faster. If it’s faster to lift (bodies), we lift one by one,” he told reporters in Pangkalan Bun, the town closest to the site. Recovered bodies will be sent to East Java’s police headquarters in Surabaya for identification.

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