Jakarta/Singapore, Jan 1: After being hampered by a spell of bad weather, searchers on Thursday returned with "full force" to retrieve bodies and the AirAsia plane wreckage in the Java Sea off Indonesia as the mystery over the reasons for the crash remained.
"The visibility is good this morning, we are ready to fight with full force to search for bodies, wreckages that can reveal what went wrong with this accident," Indonesia's First Marshal Agus Dwi Putranto said.
Four aircraft were dispatched to the area just after sunrise, reports said. The massive hunt for the 162 people on board the Singapore-bound AirAsia Flight QZ8501 that went missing on Sunday after taking off from Surabaya, Indonesia, was severely limited due to heavy rain, wind and thick clouds yesterday.
Another body was retrieved some 70km from the shores of Pengkalan Bun this morning, taking the total number of bodies retrieved so far to eight. Fair weather spurred search teams to take-off from Pangkalan Bun's Iskandar Airport here on their recovery mission on the fifth day.
As of now, out of the eight bodies retrieved -- two have been sent to Surabaya, three are still on the ships, two undergoing post-mortem at Sultan Imanuddin Hospital here, and the one which was pulled out today is being flown on a Super Puma helicopter to the airport. Sunarbowo Sandi, search and rescue coordinator in Pangkalan Bun, said he is hopeful divers would be able to explore the wreckage site.
Official: It's possible the bodies are in the fuselage
"It's possible the bodies are in the fuselage. So it's a race now against time and weather," Sandi said. Meanwhile, a vigil was held in Surabaya for the victims of the Airbus A320-200 crash. Hundreds of residents and relatives of those on board lit candles and observed a minute's silence for the victims.
"Let us pray for the grieving families of those on board the plane. Let us pray this will be the last tragedy for Surabaya," Surabaya's Mayor Tri Rismaharini said. All New Year's Eve celebrations in East Java province were cancelled. In Jakarta, the capital, residents began new year festivities with a prayer for the victims.
Nearly three days after the Singapore-bound plane went off the radar, its debris was found on Tuesday in the Karimata Strait near Pangkalanbun, Central Kalimantan.
The plane 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.
The mystery still remains over why the plane lost contact with air traffic control and what happened afterwards.