KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 — Malaysia has deployed three military vessels and a C130 military aircraft to aid Indonesia in the on-going search-and-rescue operation for its missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Liow Tiong Lai said today.
He said the vessels are currently enroute to the Bangka-Belitung islands, following unconfirmed reports of a jet said to have gone down in the waters there.
“We are assisting the Indonesian government. This is a request to us… we have deployed our assets there,” Liow said at a news conference here which was also broadcast live by satellite news channel, Astro Awani.
“Speculations that the plane has been found is untrue...we are still searching for the plane,” he added, stressing that Indonesia would be leading the mission, while Malaysia and Singapore will assist them in the search-and-rescue-mission.
Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority also offered its planes and ships to help Indonesia search for the missing plane.
“We have offered our planes and ships to assist in the search, and received confirmation from the Indonesian authorities this afternoon at 1430 hours to accept our offer, requesting for one C130 (military aircraft) for now. We have already launched it to assist with the search and locate efforts,” it said in a statement.
Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) has already sent a team down to its Bangka-Belitung Islands.
The search-and-rescue operation was called after an Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore was reported missing earlier this morning.
Indonesian daily Jakarta Post reported a representative from the agency’s base in island’s capital city in Pangkalpinang saying they believed the passenger plane with 162 on board may have gone down 145km to the east of the islands — which is the mid-way mark between its point of departure in the island of Surabaya in Indonesia, and its destination of Singapore.
According to Basarnas’ spokesman Supriandi, Indonesian air traffic control had lost contact with the Airbus 320-200 over an area located at the coordinates 03.22.46 south and 108.50.07 east of Belitung.
At an earlier news conference in Jakarta after the plane went missing, Indonesia’s Transport Ministry’s air transportation director Joko Muryo Atmodjo said that the aircraft was between the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pandan and the town of Pontianak, in West Kalimantan on Borneo island, when it disappeared from the radar.
Joko Muryo added that the aircraft had been flying at 32,000 feet and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds, reported Reuters.
Basarnas has since dispatched a vessel to search the plane — which fell off radar at 7.24am (8.24am Malaysia time) — with a search and rescue team of 22 members together with teams despatched by the Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) and the Bangka Belitung air and water police unit (Polrairud Babel), reported Indonesia’s national news agency, Antara News.
The jetliner is ferrying 155 passengers — of which 138 are adults, 16 children, one infant and seven crew members.