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Weather Hampers AirAsia Search; Sonar May Have Found Parts Of Plane

Indonesian soldiers carry a coffin containing a victim of AirAsia Flight 8501 upon arrival at Indonesian Military Air Force base in Surabaya, Indonesia, on Wednesday.
Image credit: Firdia Lisnawati

Officials in Indonesia say bad weather on Wednesday has stopped the search for the AirAsia jetliner that went missing Sunday.

Recovery teams were hoping to find more bodies and the cockpit voice and data recorders from Flight 8501.

Strong currents are moving the wreckage, and have kept helicopters from joining in the search.

Ships are still at the scene, but divers have been prevented from picking up more bodies or the data recorders. The weather is not expected to improve until Friday.

The relatively shallow waters were expected to make it easier for divers to locate the so-called black boxes, which contain cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Investigators say they will be key in understanding what caused the Airbus A320 to crash.

Seven bodies, including a flight attendant still wearing her red AirAsia uniform, have been recovered, according to Indonesia’s Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo, who talked to The Associated Press.

The first two bodies, placed in simple wooden boxes, have arrived back in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, where relatives were waiting.

The BBC reports that a public memorial will be held in Surabaya on Wednesday evening local time. The governor of East Java province has told the BBC that all New Year’s Eve celebrations have been canceled.

There are reports that sonar images have identified what appears to be large parts of the plane.

One search official told CNN that he believes sonar equipment has detected wreckage from the plane at the bottom of the sea.

“I think that that’s the case,” said Muhammad Hernanto, the head of search and rescue for the city of Surabaya.

The jet was flying from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore when it disappeared from radar early Sunday morning in bad weather. The pilots did not declare an emergency before vanishing.

The U.S. Navy says the USS Sampson will remain in the area as long as it is useful. The destroyer arrived Tuesday to help locate the wreckage. It was part of a multinational effort to search for the jet, parts of which were first located on Monday.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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