Missing AirAsia flight QZ8501: Search and rescue teams expand area for crashed plane as strong currents move debris

Time is running out as team tries to ‘beat the weather’

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Search and rescue teams expanded the search area for the crashed AirAsia plane today.

Sonar identified five large objects which could be pieces of flight QZ8501, but strong currents, silt and mud have prevented divers from seeing or reaching them.

The search operation will expand by about 71 square miles, in order to locate pieces which have been moved by the currents.

"Time is of the essence," said Suryadi B Supriyadi, National Search and Rescue Agency's director of operations, "but it seems like it is hard to beat the weather."


Only 37 bodies have been recovered since the crash last month and there are concerns that the challenging weather conditions will make it harder to locate the remaining victims.

No information from the plane’s all-important black box have been detected because of high waves, and the batteries are likely to die in about 20 more days.

Hendra Gunawan Sawal onboard the AirAsia flight before it went missing

However Nurcahyo Utomo, an investigator for Indonesia's National Committee on Transportation Safety, said: "We are confident that rescuers would be able to locate them in time."

It emerged over the weekend that the plane was not authorised to fly between Surabaya in Indonesia and Singapore on the day of the crash.

Clerics pray over AirAsia crash site.jpg
Muslim clerics say prayers and scatter rice over the AirAsia crash site

Several officials were suspended, including the airport operator and those in the control tower. AirAsia’s permit to fly the route has been frozen and its licence to fly in Indonesia could be revoked as a result of the revelation.

Muslim clerics flew over the crash site in a helicopter yesterday and scattered rice into the sea while praying for those who died, a local tradition.

Additional reporting by PA