AirAsia has confirmed that debris from Flight QZ8501, which disappeared on Sunday, has been discovered in the Karimata Strait, southwest of Pangkalan Bun in the Borneo province of Central Kalimantan. However, it has not yet been determined what caused the airliner to plunge into the sea less than an hour after leaving the Surabaya airport.
USA Today reports that at least 40 bodies from the 162 passenger list have already been recovered, and the number is growing.
"AirAsia Indonesia regrets to inform that The National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (BASARNAS) today confirmed that the debris found earlier today is indeed from QZ8501, the flight that had lost contact with air traffic control on the morning of 28th December 2014," the airline said.
According to CNN, family members burst into tears and several fainted while watching a live news conference about the discovery of the debris and saw video of a helicopter lowering a diver to what appeared to be a floating body.
Sunu Widyatmoko, AirAsia Indonesia's CEO, said in a statement issued by the airline: "We would like to extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of those on board QZ8501. Our sympathies also go out to the families of our dear colleagues."
Surabaya, Indonesia, Mayor Tri Rismaharini also encourage grieving relatives of those missing or confirmed dead to "be strong" during this time.
"They are not ours, they belong to God," Rismaharini said of the victims.
"I am so very sorry for this accident," Joko Widodo, Indonesia's president, said before meeting with families of passengers. "I hope families can stay strong while facing tragedy."
Flight QZ8501 was carrying 162 passengers from Surbaya to Singapore when it went missing on Sunday. The discovery of the debris follows two days of intense searching, aided by 30 ships and 21 aircrafts from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States.
Indonesia's national search and rescue director, SB Supriyadi, told the AP that the bodies discovered were not wearing life jackets. Members of search teams told the Indonesian news media that debris, including what appeared to be suitcases and pieces from the aircraft, were also discovered floating in the Java Sea.
While cause of the crash is still unknown, Satellite images showed heavy thunderstorms in the vicinity of the site where the plane lost contact on Sunday. Indonesia's Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Djoko Murjatmodjo told reporters during a press conference later that day that the pilot had requested to divert from the plane's scheduled flight path due to bad weather.
"I am absolutely devastated. This is a very difficult moment for all of us at AirAsia as we await further developments of the search and rescue operations but our first priority now is the wellbeing of the family members of those onboard QZ8501."
Almost all of the passengers were Indonesians, though there were also citizens from South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Britain.