Local rescuers who were searching for a missing AirAsia jet carrying 162 people started to pull bodies and wreckage from the sea off the coast of Borneo on Tuesday as relatives of the dead passangers broke down in tears when hearing the terrible news.
“You have to be strong,” the mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, said as she comforted relatives. “They are not ours, they belong to God.”
Indonesia AirAsia’s Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, wenr off the radars early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.
Indonesia’s search and rescue agency confirmed the debris was from the plane. The agency’s chief, Soelistyo, said “more than one” body had been recovered.
“For the time being it can be confirmed that it’s the AirAsia plane and the transport minister will depart soon to Pangkalan Bun,” Indonesia’s director general of civil aviation, Djoko Murjatmodjo, announced.
“Based on the observation by search and rescue personnel, significant things have been found such as a passenger door and cargo door. It’s in the sea, 100 miles (160 kilometres) southwest of Pangkalan Bun,” he said, referring to the town in Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo.
Indonesian officials who were searching for the lost plane off a helicopter in Pangkalan Bun said they spotted several bodies floating in waters near where the missing AirAsia flight was last seen.
The bodies of those on board, swollen but intact, were delivered to an Indonesian navy ship, National Search and Rescue Director SB Supriyadi told reporters. The corpses did not have emergency jackets on.
An air force plane also spotted a “shadow” on the seabed believed to be the missing AirAsia jet, Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency chief said.
“God blessed us today,” Bambang Soelistyo told a press conference.
“At 12:50 the air force Hercules found an object described as a shadow at the bottom of the sea in the form of a plane.”
Indonesian air force official Agus Dwi Putranto said that his team of rescuers spotted about 10 big objects and many more small white-coloured objects.
“The position is 10 kilometres (six miles) from the location the plane was last captured by radar,” he said.
The Java Sea is relatively shallow, making it easier to spot wreckage in the water, say oceanographers.
“The lesson that should be learned from MH370 is that you need to move quickly,” said Charitha Pattiaratchi, an oceanographer at the University of Western Australia, referring to the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing on March 8 during a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew, and which has not been found.
Mr Fernandes, the AirAsia chief executive, said: “My heart is filled with sadness. Words cannot express how sorry I am. On behalf of AirAsia, my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am.”
In a further tweet, Mr Fernandes said: “I am rushing to Surabaya. Whatever we can do at AirAsia we will be doing.”