Missing Plane: Search For Missing AirAsia Jet Suspended

Indonesia has suspended the search for a missing AirAsia plane that disappeared in bad weather en route Singapore from Indonesia.

The search halted at 5.30pm on Sunday (1030 GMT) as night fell, but would resume at 7am on Monday, or even earlier if the weather was good, Indonesian transport ministry official Hadi Mustofa said.

The Airbus A320-200, carrying 162 people, went missing after air traffic controllers lost contact with the twin-engine aircraft around
an hour after it left Juanda international airport at Surabaya in East Java at 5:20am on Sunday.

Shortly before disappearing, AirAsia said pilots of the plane had asked permission from Jakarta air traffic control to change course and climb above bad weather in an area noted for severe thunderstorms.

The airline, giving a revised breakdown of nationalities, said 155 of those on board Flight QZ8501 were Indonesians, with three South Koreans and one person each from Singapore, Malaysia, Britain and France.
Sixteen of those on board were children and one was an infant.

“We have focused all our strength, from the search and rescue agency, the military, police and help from the community as well as the fishermen,” rescue agency chief F.H.B. Soelistyo told a press conference.Two Indonesian air force planes and a helicopter searched the waters around the islands of Bangka and Belitung in the Java Sea, across from Kalimantan on Borneo island, with no sign of the missing plane.

He said three ships and three planes from Malaysia would join the search on Monday. Singapore had offered a C130 plane and Australia also offered help.

With hard details few and far between, panicked relatives gathered at Singapore’s Changi airport.
In Surabaya hundreds of Indonesians descended on the terminal, hoping for news.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said his nation was “praying for the safety” of those onboard.

The aircraft was operated by AirAsia Indonesia, a unit of Malaysian-based AirAsia which dominates Southeast Asia’s booming low-cost airline market.
AirAsia said the missing jet last underwent maintenance on November 16. The company has never suffered a fatal accident.

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