Jakarta/Singapore: Two large metal objects have been found in the search for the AirAsia airliner in the Java Sea, Indonesian officials said on Saturday, even as continuing bad weather held back efforts to hunt for the plane's data recorders.
The objects were found at the bottom of the sea near Pangkalan Bun, head of Indonesia's Search and Rescue Agency, Bambang Soelistyo, said.
Soelistyo told reporters that the two objects represent the main part of the Airbus A320 that lost contact with air-traffic control on Sunday morning with 162 people on board. Oil spills have also been detected in the area.
"With the oil slick that we found and the discovery of the two big objects, I can confirm that this is the big part of the AirAsia plane we have been looking for all this time," Soelistyo said, adding that a remotely operated vehicle would be sent to take pictures of the objects, though rough weather is hampering the deployment.
He said that the first object appeared to be more than 9 meters long, and the other was more than 7 meters long.
The objects were found close to each other around 11 pm yesterday in a priority area of the wider search zone, he said.
Search teams are currently deploying remotely operated vehicles to take a closer look at the wreckage before sending divers. But high waves and strong current are still hampering search efforts.
Recovery teams are encountering rough seas with waves of up to 4 metres, and winds of 20 to 30 knots, Malaysia's Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar said on Twitter.
An area, measuring 57 by 10 nautical miles, has been drawn for underwater search for the ill-fated Flight QZ8501.
Indonesian Agency for Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics said the most probable cause of the crash could be icing in the cloud that damaged the plane engine.
Meanwhile, Transport Ministry announced has suspended AirAsia's Surabaya-Singapore route for a violation of an agreement.
AirAsia Indonesia is only allowed to ply that route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but had done so on Sundays as well, it said.
The US Navy's combat ship, USS Fort Worth, is expected to the search today.
Search agency yesterday said that a total of 30 bodies had been recovered so far.