Forty bodies recovered from sea near Borneo

AirAsia has confirmed that the debris found is from the missing Airbus A320-200.

Members of the Indonesian air force show items retrieved from the Java sea during search and rescue operations for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan on December 30, 2014. Picture: AFP.

JAKARTA - The Indonesia navy says 40 bodies have been recovered as dusk fell from the sea off the coast of Borneo on Tuesday.

Rescuers searching for the missing AirAsia plane carrying 162 people recovered bodies and wreckage from the sea as relatives of those on board broke down in tears on hearing the news.

The plane has yet to be found and there was no word on the possibility of any survivors, but AirAsia has confirmed that the debris found is from the missing Airbus A320-200.

Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

"My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ8501," airline boss Tony Fernandes tweeted. "On behalf of AirAsia, my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am."

Pictures of floating bodies were broadcast on television and relatives of the missing gathered at a crisis centre in Surabaya wept with heads in their hands. Several people collapsed in grief and were helped away, a Reuters reporter said.

"You have to be strong," the mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, said as she comforted relatives.

"They are not ours, they belong to God."

About 30 ships and 21 aircraft from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States have been involved in the search of up to 10,000 square nautical miles.

The plane, which did not issue a distress signal, disappeared after its pilot failed to get permission to fly higher to avoid bad weather because of heavy air traffic, officials said.

It was travelling at 32,000 feet (9,753 metres) and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet, officials said earlier.

Pilots and aviation experts said thunderstorms, and requests to gain altitude to avoid them, were not unusual in that area.

The Indonesian pilot was experienced and the plane last underwent maintenance in mid-November, the airline said.

The aircraft had accumulated about 23,000 flight hours in some 13,600 flights, according to Airbus.

Online discussion among pilots has centred on unconfirmed secondary radar data from Malaysia that suggested the aircraft was climbing at a speed of 353 knots, about 100 knots too slow, and that it might have stalled.

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