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Tail of crashed AirAsia plane lifted from seabe

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: Rescuers today lifted the tail of the AirAsia jet from the Java Sea using balloons and a crane, nearly two weeks after the plane crashed in the choppy waters and will now search it for the crucial black box.

The development comes a day after “pings” believed to have come from the ill-fated jet’s black box were detected and efforts to retrieve the tail section – where the black box is located – were stepped up.

Indonesian search and rescue teams hoisted the Airbus A320-200’s rear section using lifting balloons and a crane from a depth of about 30 metres on to a rescue ship but it was not immediately clear whether the crucial data recorders that could unravel the mystery of the December 28 crash were still inside the tail or have been separated.

“Yes, the tail is already on the surface,” S B Supriyadi, search and rescue agency coordinator told reporters in Pangkalan Bun, the town closest to the site.

“It’s currently being brought close to a ship and then it will be towed. And then they want to search for the black box,” he said.

In a major breakthrough in the arduous hunt, searchers spotted the tail section 30 kms from the plane’s last known location on Wednesday, a day after divers joined the multi-national hunt.

The tail is the biggest part of the plane’s wreckage found so far. 48 bodies, including at least two strapped to their seats, have been found in the choppy waters.

Officials earlier said the black box could have been separated from the tail section.

“The divers looked for the black box but they didn’t find it,” Supriyadi said.

“But it has to be checked again. Lifted and checked again,” he said, adding it could take up to 15 hours to tow the tail to land.

Earlier, efforts to lift the tail were hampered due to persistent bad weather in the choppy waters with strong currents, huge waves and high winds.

The black box contains the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, crucial to determine the cause of the crash that claimed all 162 lives on board the ill-fated AirAsia Flight QZ8501, en route from Indonesia’s Surabaya city to Singapore.

Two teams of 10 Indonesian divers each had resumed the hunt soon after dawn today to investigate underwater pings that authorities said were believed to have been detected about 1 km away from the tail.

The data recorders contain underwater locator beacons which emit the so-called “pings” for at least 30 days.

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