|An Indonesian Air Force member looks through binoculars in a search operation for AirAsia QZ8501 on board a C-310 Hercules aircraft dispatched from the Halim Perdanakusumah Air Force Base in East Jakarta on Monday. The Air Force dispatched five C-310 Hercules to search for the AirAsia plane in waters 3,600 nautical miles away off Belitung, where the QZ8501 pilot was reported to have made his last contact with air traffic control. — Photo Jakarta Post
PANGKALAN BUN – The hunt for a missing AirAsia passenger plane appeared over on December 30 as wreckage and dozens of bodies were spotted at sea off Indonesia, prompting raw scenes of emotion from sobbing relatives of the 162 people aboard.
The Airbus A320-200 disappeared en route from Indonesia's second largest city Surabaya to Singapore during a storm early Sunday.
All indications now are that it crashed in the Java Sea southwest of the island of Borneo, with debris and dozens of bodies retrieved so far.
An air force plane saw a "shadow" on the seabed believed to be of the missing Flight QZ8501, National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo told a news conference in Jakarta.
Relatives of the 162 missing hugged each other and burst into tears in Surabaya as they watched footage of one body floating in the sea on a television feed of Soelistyo's press conference.
An Indonesian warship had recovered more than 40 bodies from the sea "and the number is growing," navy spokesman Manahan Simorangkir said shortly afterwards.
Meawhile, the Transportation Ministry's acting director general of air transportation, Djoko Murjatmodjo, confirmed on Tuesday that wreckage discovered in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan, was from AirAsia flight QZ8501.
"It has been confirmed that it is debris from an aircraft bearing red and white colors," Djoko said, citing that the debris was found by the ministry's rescue team.
"The recovery process will now be centered in the debris location in coordination with Basarnas [the National Search and Rescue Agency]," he continued.
The ministry said that Jakarta's air traffic control (ATC) had been about to approve the flight's request to climb to a higher altitude when the plane vanished.
Earlier, Basarnas reported that it had found 10 pieces of debris during its search for the ill-fated AirAsia Indonesia aircraft southwest of Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan.
Basarnas spokesman M. Yusuf Latif said on Tuesday that a CN maritime patrol aircraft from the Indonesian Air Force first discovered the debris during a search on Tuesday morning.
"We just searched [the location] until 11 a.m. So, according to estimations, the debris was seen at 10:15 a.m.," he told reporters at the agency's headquarters in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta.
The location of the debris matched information from two fishermen in Pangkalan Bun who said that they heard a thud and saw explosions on Sunday morning, Yusuf said.
According to Yusuf, after being notified of the discovery, Basarnas immediately dispatched a chopper to the location.
"We are ordering two members of the Basarnas team to retrieve the debris using hoists," Yusuf said.— AFP/The Jakarta Post/ANN