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AirAsia search focused on black boxes, authorities say

Indonesian Navy personnel prepare to leave for the rescue operation of AirAsia flight QZ8501at the Indonesian Naval Aviation Base Juanda on Jan. 3, 2015 in Surabaya, Indonesia. GETTY IMAGES/Robertus Pudyanto

International search and rescue teams are now focusing their efforts on locating the black boxes of AirAsia flight QZ8501, said Indonesian authorities on Sunday as more bodies and debris were pulled from the Java Sea.

Bambang Soelistyo, chief of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, said at a press conference in Jakarta on Sunday that the location of the black boxes is most probably near the area where five large objects were detected by the multinational search team. However, he said determining the exact location of the black boxes was a technical challenge.

Meanwhile, Bambang Soelistyo also called on more rescue teams to join the search effort.

“A rescue vessel from China carrying equipment that can detect black boxes will come to assist us later. From Sunday night to Monday, we will consult further and wait for rescue results from the other five rescue vessels,” said the Indonesian official.

He added that poor weather around the crash site had forced rescuers to cancel their attempt to drop cameras and divers underwater to observe the detected objects.

A total of 20 planes and 27 vessels from the United States, Russia, Japan as well as other countries conducted searches in the Java Sea on Sunday. Some debris believed to be from the plane including emergency-exit doors, seats, a plastic bag with shoes of some victims, cigarettes and a pair of sunglasses were found and transported to Indonesia’s Pangkalan Bun at 17:00 on Sunday.

In addition, some suspect one larger piece of wreckage to be the fuselage of the crashed plane.

Nearly 20 divers will be deployed to search for the black boxes on Monday morning, and the search area will be broadened as well.

By the eighth day of the search, Indonesia’s AirAsia command post had collected 35 bodies found by multinational teams taking part in the search. Thirty of the bodies had been transferred to Surabaya for processing.

A new body found on Sunday was rushed to the Imanuddin hospital in downtown Pangkalan Bun for identification and stored there briefly before being transported to Surabaya.

AirAsia flight QZ8501 was carrying 155 passengers and seven crew members when it crashed last Sunday en route from Indonesia’s city of Surabaya to Singapore.