AirAsia flight QZ8501: Indonesia struggles to retrieve plane fuselage

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesian salvage teams failed again Sunday to retrieve the fuselage of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 from the seabed after a sling snapped during a sudden change in the weather, officials said.

In the past two days the teams have been using giant inflatable bags to raise the fuselage, which lies in the Java Sea at a depth of around 30 metres, to make it easier to find bodies believed trapped inside.

On Sunday they managed to lift the fuselage to the surface for only two minutes before the sling snapped, a navy official overseeing the search and rescue operation told AFP.

"We managed to float (the fuselage) and we were about to move it to the tugboat when the rope snapped due to an extreme change in the weather," Rear Admiral Widodo, who goes by one name, told AFP.

One body came out of the fuselage before it fell back to the seabed.

A total of 70 bodies have been found so far, search and rescue official S. B. Supriyadi said.

The crashed jet's black boxes - the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder - have been recovered and investigators are analysing them.

Flight QZ8501 went down on December 28 in stormy weather, during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. There were 162 people on board.

Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said last week that the plane climbed abnormally fast before stalling and plunging into the sea.

Just moments before it disappeared off the radar, the pilot had asked to climb to avoid a major storm but was not immediately granted permission due to heavy air traffic.

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