AirAsia Flight QZ8501 update: No New Year celebration in East Java

Search and Rescue team members near a Hercules C-130 at Iskandar airbase in Indonesia, December 31. Authorities believe they have found the downed plane at the bottom of the sea.Reuters

All celebrations for the New Year have reportedly been cancelled in East Java, Indonesia following the tragedy that befell AirAsia Flight QZ8501. BBC reported that a public memorial for the crew and passengers who perished in the tragedy has been scheduled for Wednesday evening, local time. The aircraft, which disappeared in Indonesian airspace on Sunday during a short flight to Singapore from Surabaya, was carrying 162 people, including seven crew members (two pilots, one engineer, and four cabin crew) and 155 passengers (137 adults, 17 children, and one infant).

On Wednesday, Dec. 31, local time, AirAsia published an update, in part saying: "To date, BASARNAS has confirmed to have recovered a total of seven remains, which were transported to the military base in Pangkalan Bun, Borneo. Two of the seven remains were transported to Bayangkara Hospital in Surabaya for identification by Disaster Victim Identification of Police Department Republic of Indonesia (DVI POLRI)."

The last communication between the aircraft and air traffic control took place on Sunday, Dec. 28, 37 minutes after the plane took off from Juanda International Airport. The pilot was requesting permission to increase altitude from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet due to dense storm clouds. The plane disappeared from radar a few minutes later. 

Search was conducted as soon as it was possible, with joint efforts from Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency or BASARNAS, the navy and other military agencies, along with local fishermen, and search and rescue teams from Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and the U.S. Debris and signs of the wreckage was found on Tuesday, Dec. 30, along the Karimata Strait, southwest of Pangkalan Bun. The first human remains were retrieved soon after.

Currently, search operations have reportedly slowed down due to bad weather, and heavy rains have been forecast to continue until Friday. Nonetheless, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said that they expect to continue the search round the clock, and the target area has been narrowed down to two locations where it is believed the aircraft is.

The cause of the fatal incident is still undetermined.