Singapore: Singapore's search operation to locate the debris of the crashed AirAsia plane came to end today with its ship that found the jet's fuselage in the Java Sea returning back after days of rigorous scouring.
Singapore's Navy ship, MV Swift Rescue, with 70 men and women on board, arrived at Changi Naval Base here and was received by the country's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
He was accompanied by chief of Defence force Ng Chee Meng and navy chief Lai Chung Han.
The arrival of MV Swift Rescue marked the official end of Singapore's efforts in the multi-nation search operation, which started on December 28 when AirAsia plane carrying 162 people from Indonesian city of Saurabaya to Singapore crashed into the Java Sea within less than an hour after take off.
Since then, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) have deployed more than 400 personnel, two RSAF C-130 aircraft, two Super Puma helicopters, five navy ships and a six-man Autonomous Underwater Vehicle team in the operation.
Many of those who had contributed to the search were also present for MV Swift Rescue's home-coming. As a mark of respect, they observed a minute of silence for those who died in the aviation tragedy.
The Defence Minister thanked the servicemen and women for their efforts and for making a difference in the multi-nation search operations.
The return of the vessel marks the end of the SAF's 22-day deployment for the search operations, he said.
Survey ships have located at least nine big objects, including the jet's fuselage. The fuselage is sitting on the seabed at a depth of 28 meters.
Only 51 bodies have been recovered so far. Authorities believe many of the bodies are still inside the fuselage.
Bad weather has hampered operations of retrieving the wreckage.