Evacuation of bodies from AirAsia flight QZ8501 begins

JAKARTA: Three out of the six bodies spotted in the Karimata Strait waters, west of Kalimantan Island, have been evacuated by a team of the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) today, according to Indonesian news agency, ANTARA News.

Basarnas Chief Vice Marshal, F.H. Bambang Soelistyo, confirmed today that the bodies and debris, suspected to be from the missing AirAsia QZ8501 aircraft, were spotted in the waters of Karimata Strait.

Of the six spotted bodies, three were reportedly evacuated by an Indonesian warship, KRI Bung Tomo and were taken to Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan Province.

“Today, at 10:05 a.m. local time, a CN-235 aircraft of the Indonesian Air Force spotted debris floating in the waters,” Soelistyo said. At 11:07 a.m. local time, a C-130 aircraft of the Indonesian Air Force spotted another metal object floating in the water. The Hercules aircraft also spotted a shadow, presumably resembling the shape of an aircraft submerged in water.

Soelistyo stated that at 1:50 p.m. local time, KRI Bung Tomo spotted an object, probably an emergency exit door of an aircraft. The ship, with the assistance of a helicopter, then conducted a search operation and recovered the emergency exit door.

“I confirm 95 percent that this is the location of the suspected debris of the aircraft,” Soelistyo added.

The Singapore-bound plane, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact a few minutes after taking off from Juanda International Airport, Surabaya, East Java, on Sunday morning, and was believed to have gone missing in the waters between Sumatra and Kalimantan islands. The AirAsia flight QZ8501 was carrying 155 passengers and seven crew members on board.

Captain Iriyanto and First Officer Remi Emmanuel Plesel were the two pilots aboard the jet along with four cabin crew members, Wanti Setiawati, Khairunnisa Haidar Fauzi, Oscar Desano, and Wismoyo Ari Prambudi, and technician Saiful Rakhmad.

According to AirAsia Indonesia, seven foreigners are among the passengers of the missing plane. The foreign nationals comprise three Koreans, a Singaporean, a UK national, a Malaysian, and a First Officer from France. The 155 others, including the six crew members, are Indonesian nationals.