Weather improves but progress slow in AirAsia search

admin   •   January 7, 2015   •   2760

A Malaysian Navy ship is seen from an Indonesian Air Force Super Puma helicopter during a search mission for for AirAsia flight QZ8501 off the coast of Central Kalimantan January 6, 2015. CREDIT: REUTERS/VERI SANOVRI

(Reuters) – Indonesian search and rescue officials reported better weather on Wednesday over the presumed crash site of an AirAsia passenger jet, but appeared no closer to finding the black box flight recorders that may explain what brought the plane down.

Flight QZ8501 vanished from radar screens over the northern Java Sea on Dec. 28, less than half-way into a two-hour flight from Indonesia’s second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore. There were no survivors among the 162 people on board.

Thirty-nine bodies and debris from the plane have since been plucked from the surface of the waters off Borneo, but strong winds and high waves have prevented divers from reaching larger pieces of suspected wreckage detected by sonar on the sea floor. “It’s clear, it’s much better than the past few days,” air force First Lieutenant Alpha Yudi Baskoro told reporters in Pangkalan Bun, the southern Borneo town where the operation is based. “Waves are around one to two meters – that’s good. The wind speed is also relatively low.”

Indonesian officials believe seven metal objects pinpointed in water about 30 meters deep may include the tail and parts of the fuselage of the Airbus A320-200.

But even on the few occasions the weather has allowed divers to enter the water, strong currents and poor visibility in the muddy sea have made progress painstakingly slow.

“We couldn’t dive for long, only five or 10 minutes and then go up,” navy diving supervisor Sergeant Major Rudi Hartanto told Reuters late on Tuesday. “The sea bed is mostly mud and sand, and the current is strong – four to five knots – so the mud comes up and the visibility reduces to zero.”

For relatives of those aboard the flight, the slow pace has been agonizing. “I’m still looking for my younger sibling,” said a woman, who did not give her name, at the crisis center set up for relatives in Surabaya.

Indonesia AirAsia, 49 percent owned by the Malaysia-based AirAsia budget group, has faced criticism from authorities in Jakarta in the 10 days since the crash.

The transport ministry has suspended the carrier’s Surabaya-Singapore license, saying it only had permission to fly the route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Flight QZ8501 took off on a Sunday, though the ministry said this had no bearing on the accident.

AirAsia has said it is cooperating fully with the ministry’s investigations.

Indonesia has also reassigned some airport and air traffic control officials who allowed the flight to take off and tightened rules on pre-flight procedures in a country with a patchy reputation for air safety.

(Additional reporting by Gayatri Suroyo, Nicholas Owen, Wilda Asmarini, Eveline Danubrata, Michael Taylor, Charlotte Greenfield and Fransiska Nangoy in Jakarta/Surabaya; Writing by Alex Richardson)

Airasia offers 5-year unli flights for Olympic silver medalist Petecio

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 3, 2021

AirAsia Philippines has congratulated Nesthy Petecio for winning the silver medal in the women’s featherweight division of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday (August 3).

To honor  Petecio for being the first Filipina boxer to win a medal in the Olympics, AirAsia pledged to give her 5-year unlimited flights for free.

“Congratulations Nesthy! You definitely punched your mightiest to win this recognition for the Philippines. Your victory is an inspiration to everyone battling the pandemic to continue and never give up on the fight no matter what,” AirAsia Spokesperson Steve Dailisan said in a statement.

Aside from providing lifetime unlimited flights for Gold Medal winners, AirAsia will also award those who win silver with 5 years of unlimited flights, and 2 years unlimited flights for bronze.

All the 14 Filipino athletes who competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will receive free 3 round trip tickets to any AirAsia domestic destinations.

“We hope the free flights would motivate our athletes to always go all the way for the gold and never stop dreaming big.  We look forward to flying Nesthy and all our other Olympic athletes as they go home to their respective families in the province after their grueling training,” Dailisan said.

AirAsia recently awarded Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz with Lifetime unlimited flights. AAC

PCG in S. Mindanao orders intensified patrols vs. illegal entry of travelers from Indonesia

Marje Pelayo   •   July 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Southern Mindanao recently ordered its station, sub-stations, floating assets, and operational control (OPCON) units to carry out intensified monitoring and regular border patrols in the region to prevent illegal entry of people from Indonesia.

The directive comes after reports of surge in Delta variant cases wreaking havoc in the said Asian country.

Indonesia was recently included by the national government in the list of countries with travel restrictions.

It shares borders with the Philippines in Southern Mindanao and its proximity poses a huge risk of virus importation.

In view of this, PCG Commandant Admiral George Ursabia Jr. directed all Coast Guard districts and units nationwide to step up monitoring of all vessels with crew or passengers who may be carriers of the COVID-19 Delta variant, most especially borders near Indonesia and Malaysia in the Southern part of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Captain Rejard Marfe, the acting commander of PCG District Southern Mindanao, also ordered all PCG units in the region to ensure that measures are in place, in coordination with local government units and other law enforcement agencies.

DOH: 12 Filipino crew of tugboat from Indonesia tested positive for COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   July 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Twelve crew members of a sea vessel that arrived in the country from Indonesia tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said Tuesday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the tugboat, which carried 20 Filipinos, is currently docked at a port in Albay.

Eleven of the patients were kept strictly aboard the boat while one is under watch in Butuan after he disembarked to go home to his family despite orders to stay in the boat.

Vergeire said the patient in Butuan snuck off the ship and road a public transport to reach his residence.

“Iyong kaniyang close contacts, kasama ang driver ng public transport at isa pong helper at lahat ng kaniyang kapamilya ay nai-quarantine na po ng local government natin,” she said.

The remaining crew members of the ship tested negative for coronavirus, she added.

Vergeire said the DOH has collected five samples from the 11 COVID-19 positive cases aboard the vessel. These samples will be sent to the Philippine Genome Center for sequencing to determine if they are infected with a coronavirus variant.

The Philippines has so far confirmed 35 Delta variant cases, with three fatalities. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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