Debris of lost AirAsia flight possibly spotted as search area widens

In what may be the first clue to the crash location of AirAsia flight QZ8501, which went missing on Sunday with 162 people on board, an Indonesian official has said that some objects were spotted in the search area in Java Sea by Australian planes.

The search for the plane has been expanded northwards off the south coast of Sumatra, Malaysia's National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said, adding that the search area had been expanded northwards in the waters between Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The search was earlier focused around the islands of Bangka and Belitung in the Java Sea, across from Kalimantan on Borneo Island.

"We added three sectors to the north of the (four) search areas we had yesterday," Soelistyo said. "We are looking around Bangka, Belitung islands, Singkep, Karimata Strait, as well as the land area west of West Kalimantan."

AirAsia Indonesia chief executive Tony Fernandes tweeted that he was heading to Surabaya to be with the families of the victims, the bulk of them Indonesians. He also hailed the commitment of the staff in Indonesia saying that they "have been brave, strong, committed and doing 150 per cent for all our guests. My pride for them is enormous".

A plea made by the daughter of the missing plane's pilot on social media has been widely highlighted in Indonesian media. Writing on Path, late Sunday, Captain Iriyanto's 22-year-old daughter Angela Anggi Ranastianis, wrote "Papa, come home, I still need you ... bring back my papa. Papa, please come home."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, meanwhile, refused to compare the missing AirAsia plane with Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. He said that MH370 continues to be one of the greatest mysteries in the history of aviation, whereas there was "no particular mystery" apparent in the case of AirAsia plane.

"I think it would be a big mistake to equate what has happened here with MH370 ... it doesn't appear that there's any particular mystery here," AFP cited Abbott telling Sydney radio station 2GB.

"It's an aircraft that was flying a regular route on a regular schedule, it struck what appears to have been horrific weather, and it's down. But this is not a mystery like the MH370 disappearance and it's not an atrocity like the MH17 shooting down," Abbott added.

Indonesia will carry a ground check and a review of AirAsia operations to "ensure that all of its activities are better in the future," Malaysian transport minister Ignasius Jonan told reporters today.

In the aftermath of the plane crash, AirAsia shares plummeted 7.8 per cent on Monday, registering its biggest drop in a day in last three years, reported the Reuters.

The search operation chief added that Indonesia will take help from the UK, US and France in search technologies that the nation lacks.

The missing AirAsia plane with 162 people on board en route to Singapore is likely to be at the bottom of the sea, Indonesia's chief Soelistyo said.

The plane crashed in the waters off east Belitung, off the east coast of Sumatra, he said.

''Based on our coordinates, we predict that the plane is on the sea, for now it could be in the bottom of the sea," he told reporters.

Seven ships and two helicopters are assisting in the search operation.

After large waves and dense clouds obstructed the search operations on Sunday, the search for the missing plane resumed today morning at 06.00 am local time.

The plane went missing over Java Sea between Belitung and Borneo while travelling from Indonesia's Surabaya to Singapore on Sunday morning.

Out of 162 on board, 155 were passengers and seven crew members. According to AirAsia, all crew members were Indonesian except one, co-pilot Remi Emmanuel Plesel, who was a French national.