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Sunday, 28 December 2014

Search For Missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501 Continues

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — search for an AirAsia plane that went missing en route to Singapore resumed on Monday after the bulk of the search and rescue operations had been suspended Sunday evening due to darkness.

The search for a missing AirAsia jet carrying 162 people that disappeared more than 24 hours ago on a flight from Indonesia to Singapore expanded Monday with planes and ships from several countries taking part.

First Admiral Sigit Setiayana, the Naval Aviation Center commander at the Surabaya air force base, said that 12 navy ships, five planes, three helicopters and a number of warships were talking part, along with ships and planes from Singapore and Malaysia. The Australian Air Force also sent a search plane.

Setiayana said visibility was good. "God willing, we can find it soon," he told The Associated Press.

AirAsia Flight 8501 vanished Sunday in airspace thick with storm clouds on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore, and a rescue official said Monday that given the route of the plane he believed the most likely scenario was that it crashed.

"Based on the coordinates that we know, the evaluation would be that any estimated crash position is in the sea, and that the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea," National Search and Rescue chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo told a news conference.

Flight QZ8501 dropped off the radar Sunday morning local time after taking off from Indonesia's second-largest city of Surabaya. Satellite images show heavy thunderstorms in the vicinity of the site where the plane lost contact, the Guardian noted. AirAsia said in a statement that the plane had requested "deviation due to enroute weather" before communication broke off.

The Airbus 320-200 carried 155 passengers and seven crew on board. Most of the passengers were Indonesian. Three South Koreans, one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one French citizen and one Briton were also aboard.

The captain and co-captain were identified as Iriyanto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, and Frenchman Remi Emmanuel Plesel. According to AirAsia, both are experienced pilots.

A reported passenger manifest shows a total of 26 passengers, including three infants, who were scheduled to be aboard but are listed as no-shows. A crisis center and hotline have been set up for relatives of those who are aboard the flight, and the airline said it is working to identify the next of kin.

AirAsia Indonesia CEO Sunu Widyatmoko said in a Facebook post that the airline was "deeply shocked and saddened" by the disappearance. "We are cooperating with the relevant authorities to the fullest extent to determine the cause of this incident. In the meantime, our main priority is keeping the families of our passengers and colleagues informed on the latest developments.”

The company changed its logo from red to gray on social media.

More than 100 relatives of missing passengers gathered at the Juanda International Airport, the flight's point of departure, Reuters reports. Even AirAsia Malaysia chief Tony Fernandes joined the group. The airline has offered free hotel rooms and food to those waiting to hear from loved ones.

Family members also massed at Changi Airport in Singapore, where the flight had been scheduled to land around 8:30 a.m. local time. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, one woman waiting at the airport's crisis center said that she had seven family members on the flight, including her mother and brother.

One woman told CNN that her fiancée and his family were on the flight.

The hunt for Flight QZ8501 is being headed up by Indonesian search and rescue teams, with additional assistance from Malaysia, Australia and a Singaporean surveillance plane. Indonesia's head of search and rescue, Bambang Soelistyo, told the Associated Press that more than a dozen ships and eight aircraft would be deployed to look for the missing plane.

The United States has also offered support for the search. Spokespersons for the National Transportation Safety Board and the State Department said that the agencies are monitoring the situation and "ready to assist" the rescue team if needed.

The plane's disappearance has provoked an outpouring of support from the public, politicians and business leaders.

U.S. President Barack Obama was briefed on the missing flight and White House officials are monitoring the situation. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote on Twitter that he was "saddened" to hear about the missing plane. "My thoughts are with the passengers and their families," he said.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mohammad Najib Razak said his country "stands ready to help."

"Our hearts and hopes are with the passengers and families of AirAsia QZ8501," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted.

By Nick Robins-Early

Eline Gordts , Alana Horowitz TRISNADI MARJAN & MARGIE MASON, also contributed to this report.
Originally published by Huffingpost.

On Missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501

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