AirAsia Flight QZ8501: Live Report

Moira Shaw, Nick Morrison and reporters in southeast Asia
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Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) servicemen onboard a C-130 aircraft take part in the search and locate (SAL) operation for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 over the Java Sea on December 30, 2014

13:22 GMT - WE ARE CLOSING THIS LIVE REPORT after wreckage and bodies from missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501 were discovered at sea off Indonesia, prompting scenes of raw emotion from sobbing relatives of the 162 people aboard.

The Airbus A320-200 disappeared en route from Indonesia's second largest city Surabaya to Singapore during a storm early on Sunday.

AirAsia Indonesia released a statement saying the National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (BASARNAS) had confirmed that the debris was from Flight QZ8501.

The statement said the debris of the aircraft "was found in the Karimata Strait around 110 nautical miles south west from Pangkalan Bun," a town in the Central Kalimantan region of Borneo island.

Indonesian Search and Rescue confirmed debris including an exit door, a blue suitcase and three bodies had been retrieved from the area so far.

An Indonesia's air force plane also spotted a "shadow" on the seabed believed to be that of the missing flight, National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo told a news conference in Jakarta.

Relatives of the missing hugged each other and burst into tears in Surabaya as they watched footage of one body floating in the sea on a television feed of National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo's press conference.

Read on to find out how news of confirmation of the source of the debris and wreckage in the Java Sea emerged:

13:08 GMT - 'My Heart is Filled With Sadness' - AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes has expressed his grief to the relatives of the 162 passengers and crew who were on board Flight QZ8501 after wreckage and bodies were spotted at sea.

"My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am," he wrote on his official Twitter account @tonyfernandes.

-- 'MASSIVE SEARCH' --

12:58 GMT - 'Massive Search' - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has praised the search teams and said three warships were heading to the location where the debris of the AirAsia passenger plane was found.

"Tomorrow there will be a massive search by the ships and helicopters," Widodo said after flying over the area and visiting Pangkalan Bun, a town in Central Kalimantan on Borneo island around 160 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of the crash site.

"I would like to thank our close friends, the countries who have helped the search from Singapore, Malaysia and Australia," he said.

"And for the families of the passengers and crew, I also feel the loss from this tragedy and we all pray for the families to be given fortitude and strength to face this tragedy," he said at a brief appearance in the city of Surabaya between meeting relatives.

12:22 GMT - AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes - Tony Fernandes, Group Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia, adds in the statement: "I am absolutely devastated. This is a very difficult moment for all of us at AirAsia as we await further developments of the search and rescue operations but our first priority now is the wellbeing of the family members of those onboard QZ8501."

12:11 GMT - 'Sincere Sympathies' - Sunu Widyatmoko, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Indonesia, has released a statement following confirmation the debris in the Java Sea is indeed from Flight QZ8501.

"We are sorry to be here today under these tragic circumstances. We would like to extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of those on board QZ8501. Our sympathies also go out to the families of our dear colleagues."

-- 'ONLY THREE BODIES RECOVERED SO FAR' --

12:04 GMT - Only Three Bodies Recovered - Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency chief says just three bodies have been recovered so far in the search for the AirAsia plane, after another official said 40 had been found.

"Today we evacuated three bodies and they are now in the warship Bung Tomo," Bambang Soelistyo told a news conference in Jakarta, adding that they were two females and one male.

Navy spokesman Manahan Simorangkir told AFP earlier that according to naval radio a warship had recovered more than 40 bodies from the sea. But he later said that report was a miscommunication by his staff.

The Airbus A320-200 carrying 162 people crashed Sunday en route from Indonesia's second largest city Surabaya to Singapore, with wreckage recovered near its last known location.

11:46 GMT - Confirmation Debris from QZ8501 - AirAsia Indonesia says in a statement that the The National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (BASARNAS) has confirmed that the debris found earlier today is indeed from QZ8501, the flight which lost contact with air traffic control on the morning of December 28.

"The debris of the aircraft was found in the Karimata Strait around 110 nautical miles south west from Pangkalan Bun," the statement says.

"The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC. There were 155 passengers on board, with 137 adults, 17 children and 1 infant. Also on board were 2 pilots, 4 cabin crews and one engineer."

-- CONFIRMATION DEBRIS FROM QZ8501 --

11:27 GMT - 'Deeply Saddened' - Malaysia's transport minister Liow Tiong Lai says his government will continue to provide all support required by Indonesian authorities, he writes via his official Twitter handle :

"Malaysia will continue to support and will offer any assistance required by the government of Indonesia #QZ8501.

"Received confirmation from BASARNAS [Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency]. Deeply saddened by the news. Our thoughts & prayers goes to the families of those onboard #QZ8501."

11:04 GMT - UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch - The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), part of Britain's Department for Transport, is "assisting Indonesian authorities" in the search for the flight recorders from Air Asia Flight QZ 8501, it says in a statement on its website.

10:51 GMT - '21 Indonesian Naval Divers' - Head of communications of the search and rescue agency in Indonesia M Yusuf Latiff says there are 21 Indonesian naval divers continuing the search for wreckage, journalist Satish Cheney reports from the fire and rescue agency headquarters in Jakarta.

"We may add to the number of divers," Latiff says. "We might continue the search and rescue throughout the night if all factors like weather are okay."

-- '21 INDONESIAN NAVAL DIVERS' --

10:35 GMT - '12-18 Months' - "The black boxes will be the key to what happened and how," says Scott Hamilton, managing director of US-based aerospace consultancy Leeham Co. in reference to AirAsia Flight QZ8501.

"The flight data recorder will provide thousands of data points that will give the altitude, engine operating status, flight control status, flight parameters, etc., that will paint a picture of what happened.

"While the fundamentals of the accident will be learned fairly quickly once wreckage and the recorders are recovered and analysed, a final determination of the probable cause of the accident typically takes 12-18 months."

10:20 GMT - 'Less Than 50 Hours' - Selamat Omar, 61, whose 29-year-old son was on the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, has praised the speed with which Indonesia has located the debris from the AirAsia plane, AFP Kuala Lumpur correspondent Muniandy Jegathesan reports.

"It looks like there could be no survivors after the QZ8501 crashed into the sea," Omar said. "I praise the Indonesian authorities and neighbouring countries for finding the plane in less than 50 hours after the plane vanished.

"Now the victims families can console themselves and give the victims a proper burial. The families can now have a closure and have a peace of mind which I am dying for."

10:05 GMT - 'Shadow' - National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo tells a news conference in Jakarta that all efforts are being concentrated on the location where the "shadow" of a plane and debris have been spotted, around 160 kilometres (100 miles) southwest of the town of Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan on Borneo island.

The town has the nearest airstrip and is not far from the plane's last known position.

09:59 GMT - 'Number is Growing' - An Indonesian warship had recovered more than 40 bodies from the sea "and the number is growing", Indonesian navy spokesman Manahan Simorangkir tells AFP.

09:28 GMT - Malaysia Airlines Tweets - Malaysia Airlines, which has suffered a year of tragedy with the disappearance of Flight MH370 in March and the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine, has sent its best wishes via Twitter:

"Our prayers are with families and friends of all those onboard . May you continue to throughout this difficult time."

-- 40 BODIES RETRIEVED: INDONESIAN NAVY --

09:27 GMT - 40 Bodies - More than 40 bodies have been retrieved so far at the AirAsia crash site, the Indonesian Navy says.

09:26 GMT - Indonesian President - Indonesian President Joko Widodo is expected shortly in Surabaya, where grieving relatives are gathered, AFP has learned.

09:12 GMT - Airlines Respond - Other airlines are beginning to respond to news of the discovery of the crashed AirAsia plane on Twitter:

Qantas Tweets: "Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with loved ones of those onboard and all at "

09:00 GMT - Protected and Unprotected - A Changi Airport spokesman has told AFP, in response to queries on whether relatives currently at the Singapore airport will be flown to Indonesia immediately: "We are working closely with AirAsia on travel arrangements for next of kin. No further details for now."

Officials at Changi Airport have kept the relatives and friends of the AirAsia passengers well away from the media - protected in a Relatives Holding Area.

At Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, however, the media have been allowed greater access - and as a result the vast majority of images of grieving family members and friends have come from Indonesia.

08:56 GMT - Seeking Closure - Selamat Omar, whose son Mohamad Khairul Amri Selamat, 29, an aviation engineer, was on the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 has told AFP:

"It looks like there could be no survivors after the QZ8501 crashed into the sea. I praise the Indonesian authorities and neighbouring countries for finding the plane in less than 50 hours after the plane vanished.

"Now the victims families can console themselves and give the victims a proper burial. The families can now have a closure and have a peace of mind which I am dying for."

08:52 GMT - TV Editing Images - Responding to an outcry on social media, some TV stations have begun to edit the footage they are showing of the crash site - in an attempt to cut out graphic images.

Indonesia’s TV One, which originally aired footage of a floating body at the crash site, is now showing edited footage, without the floating body.

Channel NewsAsia has apologised for showing images of dead bodies in the waters where the wreckage of the AirAsia plane has been found.

"We apologise for graphic images on our TV feed that were inadvertently shown from a live feed, taken directly from an Indonesian TV station."

08:39 GMT - 'Floating Bodies' - Air Force Hercules C130 co-pilot Lt. Tri Wibowo, who flew over waters near Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan in the search for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, is reported as saying by the Jakarta Post that he saw dozens of floating bodies as well as bags and aircraft debris.

"We thought that the passengers were still alive and waved at us for help. But when we approached closer [we saw] they were already dead," said Tri is quoted as saying by kompas.com.

Tri and his Air Force team scoured the area at around 11 a.m. local time.

08:22 GMT - AirAsia CEO Tweets - AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes Tweets:

"My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am."

"I am rushing to Surabaya. Whatever we can do at Airasia we will be doing."

08:15 GMT - 'This is Crazy' - Relatives of the 162 people missing on the plane hugged each other and burst into tears in Surabaya, where the plane departed from, as they watched footage showing a body floating in the sea on a television feed showing a press conference held by Search and rescue chief Bambang Sulistyo in Jakarta.

They hugged one another and continued crying until an AirAsia officer shouted, "This is crazy", an AFP journalist at the scene said.

The situation at the centre was tense and emotional, with some hysterical and crying non-stop.

One man fainted and had to be taken out on a stretcher.

08:11 GMT - Shadow Underwater - Search and rescue chief Bambang Sulistyo, currently holding a press conference, says an Indonesian air force Hercules plane has seen a shadow underwater, believed to be in the shape of a plane.

08:04 GMT - Bodies in the Water - Indonesian Television channel TVOne is currently showing video images of bodies floating in the water.

The images are drawing a strong reaction on social media, with the majority expressing disapproval at the decision.

On one of the Twitter feeds set up to follow the the search #QZ8501, Lynda Ibrahim responds to the news: “we're VERY ASHAMED of for that callous footage.”

Others are asking for the images to be shared...

07:54 GMT - Sea Depth - The depth of the sea in the area where the debris has been found is between 25-30 metres, the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) Bambang Soelistyo has been quoted by the Straits Times as saying.

Submersible vehicles will be used for deeper dives.

He adds that survey vessels are on the way to the scene along with 11 navy divers and 10 Basarnas divers have been readied.

07:51 GMT - Body Found - A body has been found in sea during the search for the missing AirAsia plane, Indonesian search and rescue officials have told AFP.

07:44 GMT - Families Briefed - Families in Surabaya are being briefed on developments by rescue officials in Jakarta by video link right now, according to Tweets on the popular Twitter feed #QZ8501.

07:39 GMT - Hope for a Miracle - Prasetyo, a friend of one of the passengers on board the AirAsia plane has told AFP at the airport in Surabaya: "So many rumours there, I read in news, online on TV also... we just believe that, I don't know, hopefully there is a miracle anyway. All of my friends, we are crying all the time. Last night my friend BBM message to me that, I don't know - she couldn't say anything - 'I'm just crying, crying, how come it's happened to us, how come it happened to our close friend."

07:31 GMT - Passenger Door - Debris spotted during an aerial search for AirAsia flight QZ8501 is from the missing plane, Indonesia's director general of civil aviation tells AFP.

"For the time being it can be confirmed that it's the AirAsia plane and the transport minister will depart soon to Pangkalan Bun," Djoko Murjatmodjo says.

"Based on the observation by search and rescue personnel, significant things have been found such as a passenger door and cargo door. It's in the sea, 100 miles (160 kilometres) southwest of Pangkalan Bun," he says, referring to the town in Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo.

Indonesian aerial searchers earlier spotted items resembling an emergency slide and plane door in the sea.

07:25 GMT - Waiting For News - Anxiously waiting news about their loved ones, family members of passengers onboard the missing plane are watching news reports on televisions set up at a crisis centre at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya.

A mixture of emotions are showing on their faces as they watch reports about the spotting of debris floating in the sea.

07:24 GMT - Tracking Systems - After the baffling disappearance in March of Flight MH370, critics have accused the aviation industry of "dithering" over equipping jets with real-time tracking systems.

Now, with another passenger plane lost, the call for action is becoming more insistent.

Tracking aircraft by satellite and live-streaming of black box data were cited as top priorities by industry insiders after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people on board.

Its fate remains a mystery despite a long underwater search west of Australia.

Members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) -- the UN's aviation body -- agreed in the aftermath of the incident to mandate real-time tracking.

But they did not set a timeline as airlines mulled the additional costs involved. Many carriers have been losing money for years.

Now, with the apparent loss of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 on Sunday off Indonesia, the calls for immediate changes have returned with vehemence.

07:10 GMT - Debris is From Plane - DEBRIS IS 'FROM AIRASIA PLANE' SAYS INDONESIAN CIVIL AVIATION CHIEF.

07:00 GMT - AirAsia boss - AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes, who has Tweeted and used social media to comment and provide information regularly since the plane went missing, says he has met some of the families of the AirAsia crew.

“I also met the families of my crew and pilots. Not been able to see 3 families. Engineer, fo and one crew.”

And later he wrote:

“The relatives of my crew were inspirational and so moving. Their support and love for Airasia was unbelievable. Gave me huge strength.”

06:56 GMT - Distraught Relatives - Distraught relatives in Surabaya are desperately hoping for news of loved ones as the international search expandes.

Intan, 28, told AFP that Indonesia needs overseas help to find the plane which is carrying her brother and his family and friends.

"My hope is Indonesia seeks as much help as possible from other countries. Don't claim 'We have sophisticated technology', just ask other countries because they are better equipped," she says.

Jakarta has welcomed offers of help from its neighbours.

"My prayer is I really, really hope that there will be news about the people on board. Whatever it is, what is important is we know where they are now," she says.

06:33 GMT - Expanded Search Area - The search for the AirAsia plane is focused on waters around the islands of Bangka and Belitung in the Java Sea, across from Kalimantan on Borneo island, but the Indonesian army has also been asked to carry out ground searches, including in mountainous areas.

As the search was resumed at daylight for a third day on Tuesday, Basarnas chief Bambang Soelistyo told reporters the search zone had been expanded from seven sectors to 13, covering 156,000 square kilometres (60,000 square miles).

"We intensified today's search operation by expanding the search area on sea from the coordinates where the plane was missing and on land to the east and west of Borneo island," deputy operations chief Tatang Zainuddin told AFP.

He said oil spills spotted on Monday had been tested but were not aviation fuel.

"The oil leak is actually from fishermen's boats, not from the AirAsia plane."

06:29 GMT - MH370 Father's Prayer - A father who lost his son son in the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared in March has spoken to AFP. MH370 is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean where an extensive search is still going on. There were 239 people onboard the ill-fated jet.

Selamat Omar, 61, whose son Mohamad Khairul Amri Selamat, 29, was on missing MH370 says: "It is very distressing to hear another plane has gone missing. But this is very different from the MH370 incident since we know its last known location over the Java Sea.

"I hope the families will be patient. The pilot tried to save the passengers and the plane. It is fated that the AirAsia plane vanishes.

"I am shocked indeed. This morning I prayed to Allah to ensure all the 162 people onboard the jet will be safe.

"I firmly believe my son Mohamad Khairul and all other passengers on MH370 are alive and safe. Why not? We have not found an ounce of evidence to suggest the plane has crashed.”

06:18 GMT - Messages of Support - At Singapore's Changi Airport, dozens of people have written messages of support on a makeshift tribute board for family members of the passengers on board the missing plane. The board has been placed near the relatives holding area set up by local authorities.

Singaporean Jessica Sng posted a message written on a Post-It note after returning from Japan Tuesday morning. The undergraduate is worried about her flight back home after hearing news of the missing AirAsia flight.

"It hits home, because I just took a plane back," the 21-year-old has told AFP.

"What if it happened to me as well? We don't know what caused this to happen. If it was really the weather, then no matter which airline, I'll be vulnerable," says Sng.

Another Singaporean, Rohaida Rudzlan, came up to the board with her six-year-old daughter Airis Marisah to show her support for the relatives of the missing flight.

"We didn't know any of the passengers inside but somehow or rather it affects us a lot, we feel (for) each and every one of them out there," says Rohaida, 30.

"I think Singapore has sent a lot of help, so keep it up."

06:15 GMT - Relatives to Join Search - Indonesia AirAsia chief executive officer Sunu Widyatmoko has said that relatives in Surabaya of passengers on Flight QZ8501 will be flown over the search area on Wednesday, in a bid to ease their anguish, Malaysia’s The Star Online reports.

AirAsia will provide an Airbus A320 to carry the affected family members to the search area.

“We have received a request from the next-of-kin to be able to see the location (for themselves), as they believe with their presence and prayers, they will help the SAR team to quickly find the aircraft,” he told reporters at the crisis centre at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya.

05:58 GMT - French Co-Pilot - The sister of Remi Plesel, the French co-pilot of the AirAsia jet paid tribute to an "excellent" pilot who had dreamed of flying as a boy.

Aviation was his "passion", his sister Renee told French radio station RTL.

"Since he was very young, it was his dream to be a pilot and the dream came true. He had been in Indonesia for three years ... He was a very good pilot, an excellent one," she said.

Renee said she was realistic about her chances of seeing her brother, originally from the island of Martinique in the Antilles, alive. "When a plane falls out of the sky, there are hardly any survivors."

She said she last spoke to him on Friday over the Internet. He told her he had spent an enjoyable Christmas and was heading off to work the next day.

"We want them to find the plane, to explain to us what happened and to know whether we can go there, myself and my mother," said Renee.

05:56 GMT - Search Effort - Australia, Singapore and Malaysia have sent maritime surveillance aircraft and warships to assist in the search, joining Indonesian planes, ships and scores of fishing boats scouring the waters for signs of the ill-fated aircraft.

Washington said it was deploying the USS Sampson to join the growing international effort, with the destroyer expected to arrive in the search zone Today.

South Korea said it was sending a P-3 reconnaissance plane that was involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 which vanished in March.

05:44 GMT - Plane Door - Items resembling an emergency slide, plane door and other objects have been spotted during a aerial search for the missing AirAsia plane, according to information from the flight on which AFP was aboard.

"We spotted about 10 big objects and many more small white-coloured objects which we could not photograph," Indonesian air force official Agus Dwi Putranto says.

05:42 GMT - New Zealand Aid - New Zealand has sent a military aircraft to help in the search for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, the New Zealand Herald reports.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion had been sent to join the international search mission.

"The aircraft departed this morning and will arrive in Darwin later today. It will be tasked as per the instructions of the Indonesian authorities," the Mfat spokeswoman told the paper.

"Our thoughts remain with the family members of those who were on the flight as they wait for further news."

05:36 GMT - Pilot's Last Words - Indonesian air safety officials have released details about the pilot's last words to air traffic control.

Before take-off the pilot had asked for permission to fly at a higher level to avoid a storm but his request was not approved due to heavy traffic on the popular route, AirNav, Indonesia's flight navigation service said.

In his final communication, the pilot asked to alter his course and repeated his original request to ascend to avoid bad weather.

"The pilot requested to air traffic controllers to deviate to the left side due to bad weather, which was immediately approved," Wisnu Darjono, the safety director for Indonesia's flight navigation service AirNav told AFP.

"After a few seconds the pilot requested to ascend from 32,000 to 38,000 feet but could not be immediately approved as some planes were flying above it at that time."

That was the last communication with AirAsia Flight QZ8501.

05:32 GMT - Items Found - Indonesian authorities say items resembling an emergency slide, plane door have been seen during the search for the missing AirAsia plane.

WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT on the search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501. More than 48 hours after the Airbus A320-200 carrying 162 people lost contact en route from Indonesia's second largest city Surabaya to Singapore, search and rescue workers have been scouring the seas and islands for trace of the plane.