AirAsia flight QZ8501: Search operation to expand to land on Tuesday, US warship joins mission

JAKARTA - The search and locate operation for missing Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 will expand to land on Tuesday as the US navy joins the multi-nation operation on its third day.

"Search operations tomorrow will expand to land, to among others the western part of West Kalimantan province," said Mr F. H. Bambang Soelistyo, the chief of Indonesia's search and rescue agency Basarnas late on Monday.

He said the multinational operation involving from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea will continue in the Java sea past dusk on Monday. Air operations will continue on Tuesday morning.

The plan had been to halt all operations at dusk on Monday, as was the case on Sunday, the day the AirAsia A320 went missing enroute from Surabaya to Singapore.

"We want the search operation can complete and succeed fast," said Mr Bambang Soelistyo.

He noted that an object detected on Monday morning in the Java sea turned out to be from a personal locator beacon that is usually worn by a rescuer and not the missing jet.

Another object in the sea between Bangka island and Belitung island which looked like an oil spill was actually reefs, he told The Straits Times later on Monday night. 

"Patimura navy vessel arrived at the location we thought was oil leak, and found out it was actually ranges of reefs," said Bambang Soelistyo.

There has been no sign of debris or any other form of plane wreckage from the air.

Answering a request for aid from the Indonesian government, the USS Sampson has been authorised to join the search, The Guardian reported.

The US Navy is working with the Indonesian government to identify "additional surface or airborne capabilities that best assist their search efforts", the report said.

The USS Sampson, a guided-missile destroyer based in San Diego, is expected to arrive at the scene by Tuesday. The US warship joins the search alongside other seacraft, planes and helicopters from various nations including Singapore. The search is also expected to expand to land areas that include the western part of West Kalimantan province.

China's Ministry of National Defense has also said that China will dispatch aircraft and ships to participate in search and rescue efforts.

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