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​Heavy seas hamper QZ8501 recovery efforts

Searchers have yet to locate the wreckage of Airasia Indonesia flight QZ8501 on the floor of the Java Sea, as heavy seas hamper recovery operations.

At the end of Thursday 1 January, nine corpses from the lost Airbus A320 aircraft had been pulled from the sea, says Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) in an update. Luggage has also been recovered.

Nonetheless, high seas of three to four metres are hampering recovery work. Basarnas said that seas were sufficiently high to preclude the landing of naval helicopters aboard warships, forcing the aircraft to divert to land bases, limiting their endurance on station.

The recovery effort involves an international fleet of 19 ships, four helicopters, and five fixed wing aircraft, says Basarnas.

Meanwhile, a team from France’s safety investigation authority, BEA, has arrived and will participate in underwater searches from Friday 2 January.

The BEA team is equipped with hydrophones to help locate signals from the downed aircraft’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders. In addition, Singaporean warships involved in recovery efforts have acoustic detection equipment, and civilian ships with similar equipment are being deployed.

A Basarnas official, however, warns that the high seas disrupt the acoustic environment in the search area, potentially making it harder to pinpoint the recorders’ homing signals. He notes that it took weeks to locate recorders of Adam Air flight 574, a Boeing 737-400 aircraft that crashed in the Makassar Straits on 1 January 2007.

The Adam Air recorders, which came to rest at a depth of 1,800m, were only recovered eight months later on 28 August 2007 with the help of a remotely operated vehicle.

Officials maintain that the area where bodies and luggage of QZ8501 have been recovered is around 25m to 40m deep - depths that can be accessed by divers.

Flight QZ8501, operating the Surabaya-Singapore route on 28 December 2014, crashed while apparently attempting to avoid bad weather. It is believed all 155 passengers and seven crew have perished in the disaster.

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