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First victim of doomed AirAsia flight buried

Nine bodies have been recovered so far.

Indonesia Plane Source: Firdia Lisnawati

THE FIRST OF the nine victims recovered from the AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crash site has been buried.

Hayati Lutfiah Hamid’s identity was confirmed by fingerprints and other means.

Her body, in a dark casket topped with flowers, was handed over to family members during a brief ceremony at a police hospital in Surabaya, the Indonesian city where the plane took off. A relative cried as she placed both hands against the polished wood.

The coffin was then taken to a village and lowered into a muddy grave, following Muslim obligations requiring bodies to be buried quickly. An imam said a simple prayer as about 150 people gathered in the drizzling rain, and red flowers were sprinkled over the mound of wet dirt topped by a small white tombstone.

Nine bodies have so far been retrieved in the search for the Airbus A320-200, which crashed into the Java Sea with 162 people on board during a storm Sunday en route from Indonesia’s second city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Rough weather yesterday hampered efforts to locate and retrieve more bodies from the sea off the island of Borneo, but conditions improved briefly this morning.

“The weather is clear today. We’re making an all-out effort to search for bodies and locate the fuselage,” search and rescue official Sunarbowo Sandi told AFP from Pangkalan Bun, a town on Borneo with the nearest airstrip to the crash site.

The weather worsened in the afternoon, with heavy rain grounding helicopters, but ships and other vessels were continuing operations, said SB Supriyadi, another search and rescue official.

Indonesia Plane A crew member of Indonesian Navy's CN-235 transport plane looks out of a window during a search operation for victims of the ill-fated AirAsia Flight 8501 on Java Sea. Source: Tatan Syuflana

Sandi said foreign experts would join Indonesian transport safety investigators in the search for the wreckage and the black boxes, which are crucial to determining the cause of the crash.

“Ten investigators from the national transport safety committee (KNKT) along with two French and two Singapore investigators will join the search today to locate the fuselage,” he said.

“We hope that an underwater beacon will be able to detect the weak signal transmitted by the ELT (emergency locator transmitter),” he added.

The transmitter sends a signal supposed to help rescuers find a plane in the event of an accident.

Dozens of navy frogmen and search-and-rescue divers were in the area and ready to go once the fuselage was located, Sandi told AFP.

The plane is believed to be in relatively shallow water of around 25-32 metres (82-105 feet).

KNKT air safety investigator Toos Sanitioso told AFP they “hope optimistically” to find the plane in the near future but warned it could take at least a week.

Additional reporting: Associated Press

Originally published: 17.30

© – AFP 2015

Read: Q&A: What happened to missing AirAsia flight QZ8501?

Read: Daughter of Indonesian pilot begs “Papa come home, I still need Papa”

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