Although officials promised another massive search on Wednesday, storms forced them to halt the hunt for the remaining bodies and the rest of the plane, which had been travelling from Indonesia’s second biggest city Surabaya to Singapore when it crashed.
“We are experiencing bad weather now. Rains and winds prevented us from resuming the search operation this morning,” air force rescue coordinator S.B. Supriyadi told AFP.
National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said Wednesday that six bodies had now been recovered, including a female cabin crew who was still in uniform.
“As soon as the weather is clear, the bodies will be brought to Pangkalan Bun,” the town with the nearest airstrip to the crash site, said Soelistyo.
Supriyadi said that hundreds of people from the military, police and national rescue agency were on standby waiting for clear weather in Pangkalan Bun.
Early on Wednesday, relatives were gathering at the crisis center again, where they were expected to give documents to help with identifying the bodies.
Raising their hands in the air and closing their eyes, dozens of grieving relatives sang Wednesday of their “surrender’’ to God, wiping away tears as they came to terms with the loss of loved ones on AirAsia Flight QZ8501.
They prayed and listened to a priest who gave them words of encouragement in their grief, a day after the discovery of debris and some bodies extinguished their last faint hopes.
“Our God is not evil. One day slowly we will understand. Something beautiful can still come out of this,’’ the priest told them.
“There are many tests in this world. We must keep our faith in Jesus.’
Outside, flower-wreathed condolence signboards read “May you be given strength and fortitude’’.
As exhausted relatives prayed and awaited news about efforts to retrieve more bodies, others started to prepare funerals for loved ones.
They appeared drained, with eyes red from days of crying.
Plane on ocean floor
A body recovered on Wednesday from the crashed AirAsia plane was wearing a life jacket, raising questions about how the disaster unfolded.
Hernanto, head of the search and rescue agency in Surabaya, said rescuers believed they had found the plane on the sea bed with a sonar scan in water about 30 to 50 metres (100 to 165 feet) deep. The black box flight data and cockpit voice recorder has yet to be found, most important evidence in the wreckage.
The black boxes are orange in color. The flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders will reveal the plane’s speed, altitude, direction and the pilots’ actions during the flight. The cockpit recorder will capture the pilots’ final words, which helped investigators understand why Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic in 2009.
When black boxes are retrieved they are put in coolers filled with saltwater and sent to a lab for data to be downloaded. If Indonesia doesn’t have a lab capable of handling the data, the boxes will probably be sent to Australia or France, where the plane was built. Investigators will use the information to build a timeline of what happened and why.
Ships and planes had been scouring the Java Sea for Flight QZ8501 since Sunday, when it lost contact during bad weather about 40 minutes into its flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.
Reuters reported that seven bodies have been recovered from the sea, some fully clothed, which could indicate the Airbus A320-200 was intact when it hit the water. That would support a theory that it suffered an aerodynamic stall.
A Qantas pilot with 25 years of experience flying in the region said the discovery of the debris field relatively close to the last known radar plot of the plane pointed to an aerodynamic stall. One possibility is that the plane’s instruments iced up, giving the pilots inaccurate readings.