AirAsia flight QZ8501: Hospital in Surabaya ready to hold 150 bodies; families have given DNA samples

Relatives of a passenger of AirAsia flight QZ8501 entering a room at the terminal building of Juanda International Airport, to give DNA samples to assist in the body identification process. -- ST PHOTO: AMIR HUSSAIN
Relatives of a passenger of AirAsia flight QZ8501 entering a room at the terminal building of Juanda International Airport, to give DNA samples to assist in the body identification process. -- ST PHOTO: AMIR HUSSAIN
Relatives of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 enter a room in the terminal building of Juanda International Airport in Surabaya on Dec 31 to provide DNA samples to assist in the identification of bodies. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Relatives of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 enter a room in the terminal building of Juanda International Airport in Surabaya on Dec 31 to provide DNA samples to assist in the identification of bodies. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Relatives of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 enter a room in the terminal building of Juanda International Airport in Surabaya on Dec 31 to provide DNA samples to assist in the identification of bodies. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Relatives of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 enter a room in the terminal building of Juanda International Airport in Surabaya on Dec 31 to provide DNA samples to assist in the identification of bodies. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SURABAYA - Some 130 ambulances were on standby at an airbase in Surabaya close to Juanda International Airport on Wednesday morning, to transport the bodies of passengers on board the doomed Air Asia flight QZ8501.

The bodies will be brought to a nearby hospital inside a police complex, where cold storage containers have been prepared to hold 150 bodies, said Colonel Dr Budiyono, head of East Java regional police's health services.

A total of seven bodies - three women and four men - have been found by search teams so far, although only two were brought to Pangkalan Bun on central Kalimantan on Wednesday. 

The others are still out at sea due to bad weather conditions that are hampering recovery efforts.  

In all, 93 families have given DNA samples to assist in the identification process as of 9.30am on Wednesday, added the police chief at a press conference outside the crisis centre for relatives at Juanda International airport.

Speaking at the press conference, Surabaya's search and rescue agency Barsanas chief Hernanto said 18 ships are now at the location of the crash site, including four from Singapore - the RSS Supreme, RSS Persistence, RSS Valour and MV Swift Rescue.

Even as search operations were hampered due to bad weather, Mr Hernanto said more resources will be poured into the area from the previously demarcated 13 search sectors, to maximise search efforts.

Indonesia Air Asia chief executive Sunu Widyatmoko said the crisis centre will soon be moved to the hospital compound, so that relatives will be closer to the bodies.

Relatives had slowly streamed into a room located some 200m away from the crisis centre earlier on Wednesday morning to provide DNA samples as well as photographs and other details to help identify passengers and crew. Some brought along their suitcases with them.

The victim identification process will be carried out by the East Java police's health services team at the Rumah Sakit Bhayangkara Surabaya hospital.

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