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Bodies retrieved near site of AirAsia plane disappearance

Juni Kriswanto, AFP | A family member of one of the passangers of the fated AirAsia flight takes part in a search operation over the Java Sea on December 30, 2014.

Indonesian officials on Tuesday spotted a number of bodies in the Java Sea from the AirAsia flight that disappeared Sunday with 162 people on board. AirAsia Indonesia confirmed Tuesday that the debris found earlier was indeed from QZ8501.

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The bodies were found in the Java Sea off the Indonesian island of Borneo about 10 kilometers from the last communication from AirAsia Flight QZ8501 with traffic control.

Three bodies, swollen but intact, were recovered by an Indonesian navy ship, National Search and Rescue Director S. B. Supriyadi told reporters in the nearest town, Pangkalan Bun. The corpses did not have life jackets on.

The debris of the aircraft was found in the Karimata Strait around 110 nautical miles south west from Pangkalan Bun.

The Airbus A320-200 vanished in poor weather on Sunday morning during a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. On board were 155 Indonesians, including the pilot, three South Koreans, and one person each from Singapore, Malaysia and Britain. The co-pilot was French.

Grief, shock as families view TV footage

Images on Indonesian TV showed a half-naked bloated body bobbing in the sea. Search and rescue teams were lowered on ropes from a hovering helicopter to retrieve corpses.

As family members of the plane's passengers sat together in a waiting room at the Surabaya airport, they watched the graphic details on television. Many screamed and wailed uncontrollably, breaking down into tears while a middle-aged man collapsed and was rushed from the room on a stretcher.

The bodies were recovered hours after pieces of red and white debris was spotted in the Java Sea on the third day of the search and rescue mission, which was expanded Tuesday.

"Based on the observation by search and rescue personnel, significant things have been found such as a passenger door and cargo door. It's in the sea, 100 miles (160 kilometres) southwest of Pangkalan Bun," said Indonesia’s civil aviation chief Djoko Murjatmodjo, referring to the town in the province of Central Kalimantan, on Borneo.

An Indonesian navy spokesman said a plane door and oxygen tanks had been recovered and taken away by helicopter for tests.

No distress signal

The plane, which did not issue a distress signal, disappeared after its pilot failed to get permission to fly higher to avoid bad weather because of heavy air traffic, officials said.

Pilots and aviation experts said thunderstorms, and requests to gain altitude to avoid them, were not unusual in that area.

About 30 ships and 21 aircraft from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States were searching up to 10,000 square nautical miles on Tuesday.

AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes said of the tragedy, “I am absolutely devastated".

Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged relatives to be strong in facing "this difficult moment".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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