Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency officials say search teams have found debris from the missing AirAsia plane, and at least one body. News agency reports stated that more than 40 bodies had been found.
The wreckage was found in the Karimata Strait, off the coast of Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.
Indonesian search and rescue officials said more than one body had been found in the sea, while one navy spokesman said teams had recovered one body, plus a plane door and oxygen tanks.
Agence France Presse, citing the Indonesian navy, reported that more than 40 bodies had been retrieved.
The BBC reported that six bodies had been found and at least three recovered.
AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted: “My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences.”
The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, is headed to Pangkalan Bun.
The Reuters news agency described the scene at a centre for relatives in Surabaya when TV footage of a floating body was broadcast. “Pictures of floating bodies were broadcast on television and relatives of the missing gathered at a crisis centre in Surabaya wept with heads in their hands. Several people collapsed in grief and were helped away,” a Reuters reporter said.
AirAsia Flight QZ8501 went missing on Sunday while en route from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore.
It is believed that the Airbus A320 changed route to try and avoid a thunderstorm. It has been reported that the plane had been flying at 32,000 feet and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds.
Thunderstorms were reported in the area with clouds up to 50,000 feet.
The plane lost contact with air traffic control at 07:24 Surabaya local time on Sunday, having taken off from Juanda International Airport in Surabaya at 05:35. There was no distress signal from the plane.
There were two pilots, four flight attendants, and one engineer on board the missing aircraft along with 155 passengers. Among the passenger were 138 adults, 16 children, and one infant.
The plane was carrying 155 Indonesians, along with three South Koreans, one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one passenger from the United Kingdom, and one French crew member.
Agence France Presse has quoted the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, Bambang Soelistyo, as saying search teams had spotted an object described as “a shadow at the bottom of the sea in the form of a plane”.
Soelistyo said the search was now being concentrated on the location where the “shadow” and debris had been found, about 100 miles southwest of Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan.
AirAsia said after the plane went missing that the captain in command of the aircraft had a total of 6,100 flying hours and the first officer a total of 2,275 flying hours. The airline added that the aircraft had undergone its last scheduled maintenance on November 16, 2014.
AirAsia Indonesia is 49 percent owned by Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia, with local investors holding the rest. Until now, the AirAsia group, including affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, had not had a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002. It is a hugely popular and successful airline.
Malaysia has already suffered two other air tragedies this year. No trace has yet been found of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was then shot down over Ukraine, and it is still not clear who was responsible.
UPDATE: Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) issued a clarification at a press conference this evening, stating that three bodies, not 40, had been recovered from the QZ8501 debris site. The agency chief, Bambang Soelistyo, said the bodies of two women and one man had been retrieved.
Earlier, an Indonesian navy spokesman had had told Agence France Presse that 40 bodies were found and put on an Indonesian warship, Bung Tomo. The spokesman, Manahan Simorangkir, later said there had been miscommunication by his staff.