Divers renewed efforts on Friday to reach the fuselage of AirAsia Flight 8501 with hopes of finding more victims trapped inside, after initial efforts were foiled due to bad weather and rough seas, authorities said. The search for the wreckage and bodies has entered its twentieth day with only 50 bodies having been recovered so far.
Singaporean navy ship, MV Swift Rescue, ended its search for the wreckage of the Airbus A320-200 after locating and capturing images of the fuselage in the Java Sea, following which Indonesia’s search and rescue agency chief declared that the country would now carry out the remainder of the operation. MV Swift Rescue, which is equipped with sonar that can help detect objects on the sea bed, was reportedly deployed on Dec. 30 and found the fuselage on Wednesday.
"With the flight data and cockpit voice recorders recovered and the fuselage located, the BASARNAS (Indonesian search authority) Chief Bambang Soelistyo has informed other countries that Indonesia would have its own resources for subsequent efforts, and thanked us for all our help," Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen wrote in a Facebook post. "After 20 days of this search mission, MV Swift Rescue, SAF’s last ship there, has left the Java Sea for home. This marks a formal end to SAF’s involvement in the search for the AirAsia plane and its passengers."
Indonesian officials said that the main priority of the search now is to find all 162 people aboard the plane, which went down on Dec. 28 after the pilot requested a change of course to avoid bad weather while on its way to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia. Investigators are currently analyzing data from the black box and cockpit voice recorder, which could help determine the cause of the crash.
Meanwhile, families of the passengers of Flight 8501 have been offered an initial compensation of about $23,841, which is about half the amount offered to the next of kin of those aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing March 8 and is yet to be found, The Telegraph reported. The initial payment is designed to address the immediate financial needs of the families, according to the report. Munich-based Allianz, which is also the insurer for Malaysia Airlines, will disburse the compensation, the report added.
“I have had real difficulty explaining to families that we are helping why Air Asia and its London Lead Aviation Insurer, Allianz, have offered each family precisely half of what Allianz offered families of MH370 and MH17,” James Healy-Pratt, an aviation lawyer, told The Telegraph. “A good number of families have rejected this cut price offer of advanced compensation, and the feeling is that a low cost airline like Air Asia should not be treating the bereaved families of passengers cheaply, compared to flag carriers like Malaysian.”
The search for Flight MH370, which went missing with 239 people on board while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, is still ongoing. Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17 while on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people on board.