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Indonesia expands search area for missing A320

Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Barsanas) has expanded the search area for flight QZ8501, as the Indonesia AirAsia Airbus A320 aircraft remains missing over 30 hours after losing contact with air traffic control.

The agency says the search area, previously focused on four sectors spanning 120 by 240nm, has been expanded to seven sectors.

“The division of the sector is based on preliminary data received when the plane lost contact as well as other supporting data related to natural conditions,” it adds.

Agency’s chief Bambang Soelistyo earlier told reporters that based on the coordinates it has, Barsanas is working on the assumption that the aircraft has crashed into the Java sea, and could be lying on the sea floor.

Barsanas' search is focused on waters east of Pulau Belitung, an island in the Java sea. Reports indicate that the search area has widened to include waters further north.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore meanwhile says it will send two sets of underwater locator beacon detectors to assist in locating the flight data recorders of the missing aircraft. Together with four specialists from the country’s air accident investigation bureau, the equipment is ready to be deployed, pending activation from Indonesian authorities.

Barsanas says Indonesia has so far deployed 12 ships and two helicopters. Singapore has deployed two Lockheed Martin C-130 aircraft, Malaysia will also contribute a C-130. Malaysia and Singapore will also deploy three warships each. Australia has committed an AP-3C Orion aircraft.

Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control on the morning of 28 December, after its pilots asked to ascend from 32,000ft to 38,000ft to avoid stormy weather. No distress signal was received from the aircraft.

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