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Zero visibility blocks divers from reaching AirAsia wreckage

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Zero visibility prevented Indonesian Navy divers Sunday from reaching large objects believed to be parts of an AirAsia plane that crashed with 162 people last week, the search chief said.

Rescue officials said Saturday that ships equipped with sonar technology had detected four large objects they hoped were parts of AirAsia’s Airbus A320-200 fuselage.

“Today we sent two divers with the aim of reaching the biggest object, but visibility on the sea floor was zero and it was covered with mud,” search chief Bambang Sulistyo said. “So the effort was suspended.”

A remotely operated undersea vehicle would be sent instead, he said.

High waves and strong winds in the past few days had prevented divers equipped with cameras and sonar devices from scouring the sea floor to find more debris and bodies.

Bambang said searchers detected another object on the sea floor near the other four objects found earlier.

Officials said they believed the bodies of many of the victims were still strapped to their seats in the aircraft’s fuselage.

Rescuers found four more bodies on Sunday, bringing the confirmed death toll to 34, officials said.

The decomposed corpses were immediately flown to Surabaya, where doctors are working around the clock to identify victims.

“The bodies are in a state of advanced decomposition,” said Brigadier General Arthur Tampi, the head of the national police medical department. “It’s impossible to identify them just by looking at them.”

The aircraft went down during a flight from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, to Singapore on December 28.

Searchers were also racing against time to find the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, which could shed light on what went wrong with the flight.

The aircraft did not send a distress signal before it disappeared from radar screens.

It last made contact with air traffic control in Jakarta to request permission to ascend to avoid bad weather. When air traffic control contacted the plane a few minutes later to tell the pilots that they could make a limited ascent, there was no response.

Researchers at Indonesia’s meteorology agency suggested that ice might have damaged the engine after the plane flew into storm clouds. SAPA

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