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Singapore to send two planes on Monday to assist AirAsia plane search operations

TWO Singapore planes will set off early on Monday morning to assist with the continuing search for Flight QZ8501, the Indonesia AirAsia aircraft which has gone missing.

In a joint statement, the Singapore Transport Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said the CAAS will also be sending an officer to the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency in Jakarta to help in the coordination of the search operations.

On Sunday morning, the Singapore Rescue Coordination Centre (SRCC) - managed by CAAS and supported by various agencies, including the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) - had offered assistance to BASARNAS, the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency.

The SRCC had offered planes and ships to assist in the search and received confirmation from the Indonesian authorities in the afternoon on the acceptance of the offer. The SRCC then launched a C130 aircraft for the search on Sunday.

The Singapore Ministry of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has also offered the Indonesian authorities two teams of specialists and two sets of underwater locator beacon detectors to assist with the search.

The offer comes after Flight QZ8501 - which was scheduled to arrive in Singapore at 8.30am local time from Surabaya - lost contact with Jakarta air traffic control at 7.24am local time on Sunday.

Singapore air traffic control was informed of the loss of contact at 7.54am by Jakarta air traffic control.

The aircraft was in the Indonesian Flight Information Region (FIR) when contact was lost, more than 200 nautical miles southeast of the Singapore-Jakarta FIR boundary.

There were 155 passengers on board the aircraft, with 138 adults, 16 children and one infant. Also on board were two pilots and five cabin crew.

The passengers comprise one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one Briton, three South Koreans and 149 Indonesians.

Of the crew, one is from France and the other six are Indonesians.

The statement said CAAS and Changi Airport Group (CAG) Crisis Management Centres were immediately activated upon the alert and have been working closely with the airline's crisis management team.

A relatives holding area at Changi Airport Terminal 2 has been set up to provide assistance to the next of kin of the missing passengers.

In response to media queries, authorities here confirmed that the Singaporean on board the missing flight is a two-year-old girl, who was travelling with her father, a British national.

Local authorities said earlier in the day that they had contacted the girl's mother and grandparents, who were in the holding area, and have provided them all necessary support.

Singapore's Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said in the statement that this is a difficult time for the relatives of those on the plane.

"We are doing our best to offer the necessary help and support to all next of kin at the relatives holding area. The Ministry of Social and Family Development and CAG have provided counsellors and care officers to support the next of kin. Other staff from CAG, AirAsia and airport partners, as well as officials from the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Singapore, are also assisting the next of kin."

Arrangements for local accommodation or for travel to Indonesia have been made for the close relatives.

They can contact Indonesia AirAsia at +62 (21) 2985 0801 for more information.