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Large Objects Found In Java Sea Believed To Be AirAsia Jet

Indonesian Navy personnel carry a body bag from AirAsia Flight 8501, which crashed off the coast of Indonesian Borneo a week ago.
Adek Berry
Indonesian Navy personnel carry a body bag from AirAsia Flight 8501, which crashed off the coast of Indonesian Borneo a week ago.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. ET

Indonesia's search teams have located four large objects underwater that they believe belong to the missing AirAsia jet. A total of 30 bodies have been found in recent days floating in the choppy seas around debris and an oil slick from the flight that was carrying 162 passengers and crew when it disappeared a week ago.

The chief of the main Indonesian search-and-rescue agency, Bambang Soelistyo, told reporters after announcing that the first two pieces had been located that: "I can assure you these are the parts of the AirAsia plane we have been looking for."

The largest of the objects resting on about 90 feet deep on the bottom of the Java Sea floor measures nearly 60 feet long and 18 feet wide, Soelistyo said. Another measures 15 by 30 feet and a third 1.6 by 24 feet, he said.

The agency has sent in remotely operated underwater vehicles to photograph the wreckage before sending in divers. Channel News Asia reported that strong currents were making it difficult for the underwater vehicle to get a picture of the objects.

AirAsia Flight QZ8501 went down in the Karimata Strait last Sunday. High winds and strong currents have hampered search efforts. Waves have been as high as 12 feet and wind speed is 20 to 30 knots, tweeted Malaysia's Chief of Navy, Abdul Aziz Jaafar. Wind and rain are forecast for the next 24 hours.

Although the aircraft's orange-colored data recorders have yet to be found, Indonesia's BMKG weather agency said initial analysis suggests that icy conditions may have caused the plane's engines to stall, the BBC reports.

The search area was widened on Saturday as debris may have drifted more than 200 nautical miles, toward the coastline of southern Borneo.

So far 30 bodies have been recovered. Most of the passengers are believed to be still strapped in their seats. No survivors have been found.

The Airbus A320 crashed into the Java Sea halfway into its flight from Surabaya to Singapore. The pilot had asked air traffic control for permission to climb to 38,000 feet to avoid bad weather. The request was denied because there was other traffic in the area. The plane was not heard from again.

This was the first deadly incident for the 13-year-old carrier. AirAsia is one of many budget airlines in the region. Low-cost fares have made it possible for tens of millions of people to travel in the region.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Martha Ann Overland
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