Hopes fade of finding more AirAsia crash victims

Jakarta: Hopes today faded of finding 92 victims still missing from an AirAsia plane crash as Indonesian search and rescue authorities said the remaining bodies could have been swept away or lost on the seabed.

Flight QZ8501 went down in the Java Sea on December 28 in stormy weather with 162 people on board, during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

AirAsia plane search operations
Search operations for the victims of AirAsia Flight QZ 8501. File pic/AFP

So far just 70 bodies have been recovered. Authorities had hoped that the majority of the passengers and crew would be in the plane's main section, but after several days searching the fuselage, they said no more bodies could be located.

"They could be on the seabed, or have been swept away by waves and currents," S B Supriyadi, a search and rescue agency official who has been coordinating the hunt, told AFP.

The Indonesian military, which has provided the bulk of personnel and equipment for the operation, withdrew from the search yesterday due to the failure to find more victims, and after several failed attempts to lift the damaged fuselage.

The country's civilian search and rescue agency has said it will push on with the hunt for at least a week, with three aircraft, several ships, and divers. While Supriyadi suggested it would be tough to find any more victims, the agency's chief Bambang Soelistyo nevertheless said he was "optimistic".

Soelistyo said search and rescue teams were being given two days' break after weeks searching in inhospitable conditions, but will push on with the hunt afterwards.

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