7 January 2015
Last updated at 06:12
Searchers have been scanning the sea from helicopters and ships
The tail of crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 has been found in the Java Sea, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue has said.
The tail houses the “black boxes” – the voice and flight data recorders – which could give investigators clues as to the cause of the crash.
The aircraft was en route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore on 28 December with 162 people on board when it disappeared from radar.
No survivors have been found.
“We have found the tail that has been our main target today,” Bambang Soelistyo told reporters in the capital, Jakarta.
It was spotted by teams involving divers and unmanned underwater vehicles, he said. It is the first significant piece of wreckage from the crash to be identified.
Only 40 bodies have been recovered so far but the authorities believe many of the passengers may still be strapped inside the main body of the plane.
AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes said on Twitter: “We need to find all parts soon so we can find all our guests to ease the pain of our families. That still is our priority.”
On Tuesday the search area was expanded as search officials suspected that strong underwater currents could be pushing the debris away from the last point of contact with the plane.
The BBC’s Karishma Vaswani in Jakarta says the tail was not found in the area search teams previously focussed upon, but in the expanded search area. This could add weight to that theory, she adds.
A huge international operation with aerial searches and more than 30 ships involved has been repeatedly hampered by poor weather. Some wreckage, including seats and a door, was found floating on the sea.
At the weekend search officials said sonar had detected what they thought were five large parts of the plane but strong currents and rough seas would not allow divers to confirm they were from the AirAsia flight.
The cause of the crash is not known but the plane was flying through stormy weather at the time and had requested permission to change course.
Indonesian aviation officials have said that AirAsia did not have permission to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on the day of the crash.