Accessibility links

Breaking News

Indonesia to Try to Lift AirAsia Tail Section

Mount Bromo spews ash as Hindu villagers and visitors gather ahead of Kasada ceremony, when villagers and worshipers throw offerings such as livestock and other crops into the volcanic crater in Probolinggo, Indonesia.

In searching for AirAsia Flight 8501's "black box" recorders, Indonesian search-and-recovery teams plan to start lifting the tail structure of the plane Friday, officials said.

"The weather prevented the operation to lift the tail today," Indonesia's search-and-rescue agency coordinator Suryadi Supriyadi told Reuters in Pangkalan Bun, the southern Borneo town closest to the crash site.

"The operation using [a] balloon to lift the tail will start tomorrow," Supriyadi added.

Separately, the head of Indonesia's search-and rescue-agency, Bambang Soelistyo, said in Jakarta that a crane might also be used to lift the tail and that finding the missing bodies was still the main focus of the operation.

The cause of the crash remains a mystery, but officials hope the so-called black boxes -- which contain the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder -- will provide vital clues

However, authorities said Thursday that if the flight recorder is damaged, it could take two weeks to recover the data.

Also on Thursday, an international team of more than 80 navy divers began searching the location near the tail section. Divers continued to be hampered by rough seas, poor weather conditions and murky waters, stirred by monsoon storms since the rescue was launched.

The tail section of the plane was located Wednesday on the seabed about 30 kilometers from the plane's last known location at a depth of about 30 meters.

Vessels with heavy-lifting cranes able to lift up to 70 tons are on standby.

Family criticizes search

However, one family criticized search-and-recovery teams' efforts to find the black boxes over finding victims of the crash.

The brother of one the latest bodies to be identified condemned the government's search operation, which set its focus on retrieving the tail section of the plane.

Agung Wahyu Darmono, whose brother was passenger Djoko Suseno, said, "For the family, finding the tail is not important at all, what important are the bodies of the passengers in the flight. Every single body must be retrieved and return to the family, that's the priority."

Suseno was on a holiday trip with his wife and daughter. His wife, Hayati Lutfiah Hamid, was the first body to be identified.

AirAsia Flight 8501 vanished from radar screens over the northern Java Sea, less than half-way into a two-hour flight from Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Bodies, wreckage found

Search teams have recovered baggage and smaller parts of the plane, including seats and an emergency door.

There were no survivors among the 162 people on board. So far, 43 bodies have been recovered, and 25 of those have been positively identified and returned to their families.

Authorities hope most of the rest of the victims will be found in the four or more large pieces of wreckage that have been identified on the ocean floor.

Anton Castilani, chief of Indonesia’s disaster victim identification team, said more bodies were found Thursday and would be transferred to the Indonesian city of Surabaya for formal identification.

Castilani said despite concerns over the advanced stage of decomposition of the bodies, forensic teams were trained using DNA and other sources to identify the victims.

Ron Corben contributed to this report from Bangkok. Some information for this report came from Reuters.