An international team of experts with sophisticated acoustic equipment on Friday arrived at the suspected crash site of the AirAsia jet in search for the plane’s flight recorders as search crews recovered seven more bodies from the choppy waters of the Java Sea.
With the recovery of more bodies, the rescue agency narrowed the area of search.
Rear Marshal Henry Bambang Soelistyo, head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, said bad weather was a worry, with forecasts of rain, strong winds and high waves up to four metres till Sunday.
He said that wreckage and bodies are spread over an area of 5km of the Java Sea off Borneo.
The search was now focusing on an area of 1,575 nautical square miles of the Java Sea off Borneo, he told.
The Frog Troops will dive to the bed of the Java Sea as the joint Search and Rescue (SAR) operation team believes that many of the passengers are still strapped into their seats in the plane wreckage.
“Divers are already on standby at the navy ship Banda Aceh to dive on that priority area to locate the body of the plane,” he said. “I hope we’ll get a significant result today.”
“We will focus on underwater detection,” said Soelistyo, adding that ships from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the US had been on the scene.
Over 90 vessels and aircraft involved in the search and rescue operation, said AirAsia. Bodies of 16 out of the 162 people have been recovered so far.
France’s BEA crash investigation agency, which attends the crashes of all Airbus planes, was also on the scene with two hydrophones, or underwater acoustic detection devices.
Soelistyo said the search would be stepped up as long as the weather allowed.
Earlier, officials said it could take a week to find the black box of the ill-fated Airbus 320-200 which went missing on Sunday after taking off from Surabaya.
Indonesian Transportation Safety Committee member Antonius Toos Sanitioso said, “It may take about a week to retrieve the flight recorder and that is if the sea was calm and there are no disruptions such as noise or other obstacles.”
He said an independent investigating team will probe into the tragedy of AirAsia QZ8501. The focus remains on retrieving the bodies.
The multi-national search mission has also recovered a number of items belonging to passengers and the aircraft, such as two black bags, one grey suitcase, an aircraft ladder and metal debris.