Families of the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 wishing to give them a Muslim burial may have their efforts hampered by bad weather. Islamic burial rites prefer bodies to be buried intact on land, and the difficult recovery process could prevent Muslim families from getting closure.
"I want the rescuers to find her body so I can prepare for burial,” Aris Siswanto, who lost his wife of six years, told Agence France-Presse. “There's no way I can accept or live in peace until they find her body." But others have prepared for the likelihood that their loved ones might never be found. "I am Catholic, but my son is Muslim so I have prepared a Muslim funeral for him," said Hadi Widjaja, who is making the preparations for his son and daughter-in-law. "But if they really cannot find them, I will scatter flowers in the sea here as a way to say goodbye."
A body should be buried "so deep that its smell does not come out and the beasts of prey do not dig it out," according to Islamic texts. The corpses should also not be desecrated prior to burial, such that organ donations are highly debated. Even Islamic burials at sea, in cases where it is impossible to bring the bodies back to land before decay, require the intact body to be weighed down and lowered into the sea in areas where scavengers might not immediately get at it. The 2011 burial at sea of Osama bin Laden was an example.
High waves and rough weather have hampered retrieval efforts since the discovery of the plane’s wreckage in the Java Sea early Wednesday morning local time. "We are experiencing bad weather now,” Indonesian air force rescue coordinator S.B. Supriyadi told AFP. “Rains and winds prevented us from resuming the search operation this morning." The first two bodies were brought into the Surabaya airport Wednesday morning, and that number was up to seven by the end of the day. The search for bodies was halted for the day as night fell, but ships with sonar equipment were continuing their search for the plane wreckage.
Anxious family members of the passengers on the flight have provided DNA samples, identity documents and medical records to help with identification when the bodies come in, the chief of the East Java regional police Disaster Victims Identification, Budiyono, told reporters. "The DVI team has carried out preliminary steps in collecting records from families," he said. "Since yesterday, 93 families have given us medical records. We have also taken DNA samples from 30 immediate family members.”
Since the AirAsia flight went missing on Sunday, a frantic search has been pursued for signs of debris and bodies. Oil patches and parts of the plane were eventually found in the following two days, and the search culminated in AirAsia and officials confirming the discovery of the wreckage early Wednesday.