Search for AirAsia victims continues [update seven]

Flight QZ8501 is the first fatal accident ever suffered by AirAsia
Flight QZ8501 is the first fatal accident ever suffered by AirAsia

More bodies have been found this morning, amid a major search for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501.

Indonesia’s National Search & Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said that three more bodies were pulled from the sea on Wednesday morning, taking the total number of victims found to six.

Reports yesterday that more than 40 bodies had already been recovered however, were described by Basarnas as a “miscommunication”.

“We cannot ascertain the number of victims yet,” Basarnas chief Bambang Soelistyo told Indonesia’s Antara news agency. “We do not have exact figures, but we hope some survived.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he has personally ordered Basarnas to focus on searching for the passengers and crew of flight QZ8501.

“We will first focus on finding the passengers and crew of the aircraft,” the president was quoted saying at a press briefing at Surabaya’s Juanda Airport, from where flight QZ8501 departed on Sunday morning. “I have ordered the Basarnas to hold joint operations to find the fuselage, as well as the passengers and crew members.”

The search effort is focusing on an area of sea east of the Bangkla Betilung Islands and southwest of Borneo.

Flight QZ8501 was carrying 155 passengers and seven crew members from Surabaya to Singapore. According to the airline’s data, the vast majority of the passengers were Indonesian nationals (148), while the aircraft was also carrying three South Koreans, one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one French and one UK citizen.

The Indonesian pilot had requested to change course due to bad weather conditions shortly before contact with the aircraft was lost.

Up until today’s incident, AirAsia had a very good safety record, without a single recorded aircraft loss or passenger fatality in its history. It operates a modern fleet of almost 170 A320 aircraft, approximately 30 of which are based in Indonesia.

One dead in Bintan boat sinking

Meanwhile, a passenger boat is reported to have sunk in the waters off Bintan, in Indonesia’s Riau Islands. The Jakarta Post reported Bintan’s police chief as confirming that a boat sank in the waters off Berakit Island. One person is reported to have died, while five others survived. The purpose, origin and destination of the boat, and the cause of the sinking, are not yet clear.

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