1 January 2015
Last updated at 06:47
Divers are being limited by the weather conditions
A short-lived break in the weather has failed to make an impact on the search for wreckage from AirAsia Flight QZ8501, which crashed en route from Indonesia to Singapore four days ago.
Ships and planes are scouring the Java Sea off Borneo, where the plane, carrying 162 people, came down.
Only seven bodies have been recovered as bad weather hampered the search.
A vigil has been held in the Indonesian city of Surabaya for the victims, with people observing a minute’s silence.
Rough seas have stopped divers from investigating the scene of the crash.
Naval officer Siahala Alamsyah said that bad weather and high seas on Wednesday night prevented a team of about 50 Indonesian navy divers from flying out to warships at the scene of the disaster.
On Thursday morning the skies over Pangkalan Bun air base brightened and the seas calmed, increasing hopes.
But within a few hours, the weather had worsened again.
“Clouds have started to descend again… and the weather conditions will deteriorate again,” said search and rescue official Tatang Zaenudin,
Search teams are hoping to locate the fuselage of the plane on the seabed and find the plane’s black box recorders, which could provide clues about the cause of the crash.
“It’s possible the bodies are in the fuselage,” said search and rescue co-ordinator Sunarbowo Sand from his base in Pangkalan Bun on Borneo island – the closest town to the targeted area.
“It’s a race now against time and weather.”
Salvage efforts hindered
Flight QZ8501, carrying 162 people from Surabaya to Singapore, disappeared on Sunday. Debris from the flight was located in the sea on Tuesday.
The Indonesian military is spearheading the international rescue operation
Indonesian authorities are now beginning the grim task of recovering the bodies from the scene of the crash
So far search and rescue vessels have had to brave high seas
At least seven bodies have been retrieved, but up until now weather conditions have hindered further salvage efforts.
There were 137 adult passengers, 17 children and one infant, along with two pilots and five crew, on the plane.
The majority of those on board were Indonesians.
Some investigators are reported to believe that the plane may have gone into an aerodynamic stall as the pilot climbed steeply to avoid a storm.
Officials quoted by the Reuters news agency say that the plane was travelling at 32,000ft (9,750m) when it requested to climb to 38,000ft to avoid bad weather.
When air traffic controllers consented to allow it to climb to 34,000ft a few minutes later, they did not get any reply.
A source quoted by Reuters said that radar data appeared to show that the aircraft’s “unbelievably” steep climb may have been beyond the Airbus A320’s limits.
“So far, the numbers taken by the radar are unbelievably high. This rate of climb is very high, too high. It appears to be beyond the performance envelope of the aircraft,” the source said, while emphasising that more information was needed before a definitive conclusion could be reached.
Bodies retrieved from the Java Sea are being taken in numbered coffins to Surabaya, where relatives of the victims have congregated to identify them and provide DNA samples to help the process.
Hundreds of people, including young children, turned out to the vigil in Surabaya on Wednesday evening.
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. A number of other cities cancelled or scaled down their new year celebrations.
Hundreds attended the vigil, where prayers were held for the victims
Earlier on Wednesday, the first two bodies from the crash were flown back to Surabaya. The bodies were in coffins numbered 001 and 002, as they had not yet been identified.
Other bodies have arrived at a harbour near the town of Pangkalan Bun in the Indonesian part of Borneo.
After three days, the first remains were found including aircraft parts, luggage and three bodies in the Karimata Strait, south-west of Pangkalan Bun.
Search teams recovered four more bodies on Wednesday, before the search was called off for the day due to adverse weather.
Malaysia, Australia and Thailand are also involved in the search, while the US destroyer USS Sampson has been sent to the zone.
AirAsia previously had an excellent safety record and there were no fatal accidents involving its aircraft.
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