Rescuers pull out bodies of victims from sunken debris of missing AirAsia plane

Indonesian rescuers have fished out at least three bodies from the sunken wreckage of the AirAsia plane that disappeared off the Borneo coast with 162 people aboard.

Massive waves halted efforts to recover bodies from the doomed Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 that ended in the Java Sea, causing relatives of those on board to break down as hopes of any survivors faded.

Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501, an Airbus, lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

''Today we (retrieved) three bodies and they are now in the warship Bung Tomo,'' Bambang Soelistyo, head of Indonesia's rescue agency Basarnas, said in Jakarta. Two of the bodies were female.

The navy said 40 bodies had been recovered. The plane has yet to be found.

"My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ8501," airline boss Tony Fernandes tweeted. "On behalf of AirAsia, my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am."

The airline said in a statement that it was inviting family members to Surabaya, "where a dedicated team of care providers will be assigned to each family to ensure that all of their needs are met".

Malaysia-based AirAsia said employees of affiliate AirAsia Indonesia, which operated the crashed plane, had been sent to the site in the Karimata Strait where debris was found and would fully cooperate in the investigation.

AirAsia Indonesia announced it would invite family members to Surabaya, "where a dedicated team of care providers will be assigned to each family to ensure that all of their needs are met".

Malaysia's transport minister Liow Tiong Lai said his country "stands in solidarity with the families and loved ones of those onboard (the AirAsia flight)and offers our deepest condolences".

"This is indeed a trying time for those affected and Malaysia is deeply saddened by this tragedy," Liow said in a statement, offering Indonesia all possible help.