First funeral held for AirAsia crash victim

Woman buried in Surabaya cemetery was one of 162 people on board Flight QZ8501 which crashed into Java Sea on Sunday.

Relatives have held the first funeral for a victim of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 as bad weather hampers efforts to locate the wreckage of the passenger jet which crashed in the sea off Borneo with 162 people on board.

Search officials said on Thursday the return of rough weather was hindering efforts to locate the plane and the rest of the bodies.

Nine bodies have so far been retrieved in the search for the Airbus A320-200, which disappeared from radar during a storm on Sunday en route from Indonesia’s second city of Surabaya to Singapore.

The first funeral took place on Thursday afternoon after one of the bodies was formally identified as a woman named Hayati Lutfiah Hami, and was handed over to her family in Surabaya.

After prayers at her home, the coffin was taken for burial at a Muslim cemetery nearby, with more than a hundred neighbours in attendance.

Police said they were still working on formal identification of one young man.

A crisis centre for identifying the victims has been set up at a hospital in Surabaya with facilities to store 150 bodies.

Of the 162 passengers and crew on board the flight, 155 were Indonesian, with three South Koreans, one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one Briton and a Frenchman – co-pilot Remi Plesel.

The plane was operated by AirAsia Indonesia, a unit of Malaysia-based AirAsia, which previously had a solid safety record.

‘Unfriendly conditions’

Pointing to weather charts, Bambang Soelistyo, search and rescue agency chief, said on Thursday the search teams would persevere even though conditions were expected to remain bad for days to come.

“The problem we faced today is unfriendly weather conditions,” he said. “The waves were between three and four metres”.

“From tomorrow until the fourth, with the existing forces, calculations and tactics we have, we will still be fighting, but I hope we can still get some results despite having to face such conditions.”

Bambang said a National Transport Safety Committee team was in Pangkalun Bun, a town on Borneo island with the nearest airstrip to the crash site.

“Tomorrow they will depart to try to find the flight recorder,” he said.

French and Singaporean experts were also set to join the search for the “black boxes”, which are crucial to determining the cause of the crash.

Tony Fernandes, AirAsia chief, said on Thursday the search appeared to be closing in on its final location.

“I am hoping that the latest information is correct and aircraft has been found. Please all hope together. This is so important,” Fernandes said on Twitter.

Cautious comments

It was not clear what Fernandes’ source was and the Indonesian naval commander heading the international search fleet was more cautious.

“We cannot be sure,” of the exact location, First Admiral Rasyid Kacong, commander of the warship KRI Banda Aceh, told AFP.

Toos Sanitioso, Indonesian national air safety investigator, told AFP they “hope optimistically” to find the plane in the near future but warned it could take at least a week.

The plane is believed to be in relatively shallow water of about 82-105ft.

During searches on Tuesday, which retrieved wreckage giving the first confirmation that the flight had crashed, an air force plane saw a “shadow” on the seabed believed to be the missing plane.

All efforts are now being concentrated there.

Debris found so far includes an exit door, an emergency slide, several suitcases and part of an AirAsia trolley.

Before take-off the pilot had asked for permission to fly at a higher altitude to avoid a storm. But his request was not approved due to other planes above him on the popular route, according to AirNav, Indonesia’s air traffic control.

Source: News Agencies


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