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Bad weather hinders search for victims in AirAsia crash

[PANGKALAN BUN] Rescue planes and helicopters sat grounded near the coast of the Indonesian island of Borneo on Wednesday as bad weather hampered the search for victims in the crashed AirAsia jet.

Officials were forced to suspend aerial missions as heavy rain and low visibility made it difficult to recover bodies four days after the Airbus A320-200 disappeared from the radar en route from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. "I went to the search area this morning and saw there was no way we could do a search," said Dwi Putranto, a senior air force official. "Now we are standing by in case remains can be evacuated,"he said, adding that over 100 divers and rescue workers were"ready to search".

Search and rescue official Sunarbowo Sandi said bodies and debris were being scattered by strong currents and monsoon weather conditions. "All the wreckage and bodies have drifted around 50 kilometres and we're expecting all the bodies will end up on the beaches around here," Sandi said. "That is why we are searching all the beaches, because the current is moving." Seven bodies have been pulled from the sea so far, an official said. Two of those bodies have been flown to Surabaya for identification. Tatang Zaenudin, another search and rescue official, said earlier that one of the bodies had been found wearing a life jacket but he later said no victim had been recovered with a life jacket on.

The search area was narrowed to 120 square nautical miles and 22 ships continued to hunt for the remaining victims and for the plane's black box, said Putranto.

But the agonizing wait could be a long one for family members and rescue workers. "The clouds are very low in the target area," Mr Sandi said."Everyone is praying for more friendly weather."