Surface search for A330 wreckage called off after 26 days

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Brazilian forces have called off the surface search for wreckage and victims from the crashed Air France Airbus A330, although the sub-sea effort to locate the flight recorders is continuing.

Fifty-one bodies and more than 600 structural parts of the aircraft, as well as items of baggage, have been retrieved during the 26-day search operation since the crash on 1 June.

"The technical reason behind the end of the search is the impracticality of sighting survivors or bodies, which was the primary objective of the operation," says the Brazilian defence ministry.

Over the 15-day period from 12 to 26 June, it states, only two bodies were retrieved and there has been no sighting of victims for nine days. Air France has confirmed that the aircraft's captain is among those already recovered.

Aircraft wreckage and luggage has been delivered to the French Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses, which is heading the accident inquiry.

French authorities are still co-ordinating an underwater search operation, with various vessels, to detect and locate transmissions from the cockpit-voice and flight-data recorder. While the sonic transmitters on the recorders are designed to operate for at least 30 days, this period will expire in less than a week.

Brazil's defence ministry describes the search effort for flight AF447 - which crashed while en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris - as the "largest and most complex" search and rescue operation undertaken by the country's forces at sea, covering 350,000km².