Indonesia’s search and rescue teams have found the tail of crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 in the Java Sea, the head of the rescue agency has announced.
The tail houses the “black boxes” – the voice and flight data recorders – which could give investigators clues as to the cause of the crash.
AirAsia flight QZ8501 was en route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore on December 28 with 162 people on board when it disappeared from radar.
“We have found the tail that has been our main target today,” Bambang Soelistyo told reporters in the capital, Jakarta.
It was spotted by teams involving divers and unmanned underwater vehicles, he said. It is the first significant piece of wreckage from the crash to be identified.
Only 40 bodies have been recovered so far but the authorities believe many of the passengers may still be strapped inside the main body of the plane.
On January 6 the search area was expanded as search officials suspected that strong underwater currents could be pushing the debris away from the last point of contact with the plane.
A huge international operation with aerial searches and more than 30 ships involved has been repeatedly hampered by poor weather. Some wreckage, including seats and a door, was found floating on the sea.
At the weekend search officials said sonar had detected what they thought were five large parts of the plane but strong currents and rough seas would not allow divers to confirm they were from the AirAsia flight.
The cause of the crash is not known but the plane was flying through stormy weather at the time and had requested permission to change course.
Indonesian aviation officials have said that AirAsia did not have permission to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on the day of the crash.
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