AirAsia flight QZ8501: Black box 'not far' from where large objects were found, says search ops chief

Members of an Indonesian search and rescue team carry items for investigation, found during the search operation for the missing AirAsia flight 8501, after being delivered by a Singapore Super Puma helicopter from the Republic of Singapore Air Force
Members of an Indonesian search and rescue team carry items for investigation, found during the search operation for the missing AirAsia flight 8501, after being delivered by a Singapore Super Puma helicopter from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) RSS Persistence in Pangkalan Bun on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - The chief of Indonesia's search and rescue agency Basarnas expressed optimism on Sunday that the black box of AirAsia Indonesia flight QZ8501 was located "not far" from five large objects the search operation had spotted in the Java Sea.

"The black box should not be far from the five significant objects we found," Mr Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo told a media briefing at the agency's headquarters in Jakarta late on Sunday.

Officials had believed they were close to a major breakthrough after pinpointing five large objects on the sea floor thought to be parts of the Airbus A320-200 jet this weekend.

But Mr Bambang Soelistyo noted the ongoing difficulty facing the multinational recovery operation: "Our challeng is mud. Lots of mud at the sea bottom."

Up to now, he said, no vessels had detected any signal beamed from the black boxes, or flight recorders.

Mr Bambang Soelistyo also confirmed that 34 bodies had been found so far, eight days after the jetliner crashed en route from Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people onboard.

All the bodies had been sent to the identification centre in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city.

He said five vessels with the ability to locate black boxes will be assigned on Monday. The weather also remains a problem, he said.

"Several (divers) tried to dive but had to return. Safety is also important for rescuers," he told reporters.

"Finding the black box and victims' bodies are our two top priorities. We will do our utmost to locate them," he said.

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