Jakarta/Singapore, Dec 31: At least six bodies have been retrieved from the Java Sea off Indonesia where the ill-fated AirAsia plane carrying 162 people went down as rescuers were hampered by stormy weather today in their efforts to pull out the wreckage. Nearly three days after the AirAsia flight QZ8501 went off the radar, its debris was found yesterday in the Karimata Strait near Pangkalanbun, Central Kalimantan.
Three bodies, two female and one male, were retrieved yesterday while three more were pulled out by rescuers today to take the total number of of bodies found to six. One of the bodies pulled out today was dressed in air stewardess uniform, said Bambang Soelistyo, chief of Indonesia's search and rescue agency Basarnas.
The other two bodies were male, he told reporters at a press conference. Many bodies were seen floating around by the rescuers and efforts were being made to retrieve them. However, the efforts to locate victims and wreckage of the plane were hampered by stormy weather and strong tides. Divers were to be deployed to search for bodies and for the plane's "black box" flight recorders but officials said heavy rain, strong winds and waves of up to 3 metres had forced them to suspend the air operation, though ships already in place were continuing the search.
"We are in a wait and see. Weather is bad currently. High tides and heavy rains. Every element is now in their position ready to make a move when weather improves," Soelistyo said.
"As soon as the weather is clear, the bodies will be brought to Pangkalan Bun," he said. Indonesian officials yesterday confirmed that remains and debris found in the waters off Borneo are from the AirAsia plane. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has promised a "massive search by the ships and helicopters" with the focus on recovering the bodies of victims. Widodo has inspected the crash location from the C-130 Hercules aircraft.
"I feel the loss from this tragedy and we all pray for the families to be given fortitude and strength," he said, speaking in Surabaya, from where the plane had taken off on Sunday morning for Singapore. Relatives of the 162 people on board the ill-fated plane hugged each other and burst into tears yesterday as they watched television footage of bodies floating in the sea.
The Airbus A320-200 was carrying 155 passengers -- one British, one Malaysian, one Singaporean, three South Koreans, 149 Indonesians -- and seven crew members -- six Indonesians and a French co-pilot. Seventeen of the passengers were children. There were no Indian nationals on board. The mystery still remains over why the plane lost contact with air traffic control and what happened afterwards.