TIME Aviation

Bad Weather Is Hampering the Recovery of AirAsia Bodies

Indonesia Mourns AirAsia Crash As Recovery Operation Continues
Members of an Indonesian search and rescue team carry the body of a victim of the AirAsia flight QZ8501 crash from a USS navy helicopter at Iskandar Airbase on January 02, 2015 in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Ulet Ifansasti—Getty Images

The longer they're in the water, the more difficult identification becomes

The first identified victim of AirAsia Flight QZ 8501 has been laid to rest, but the agony continues for most families as officials say it may take another week for the wreckage to be found, with tempestuous conditions hampering the recovery of remains.

Hayati Lutfiah Hamid, 49, was buried on New Year’s Day, surrounded by friends and family in the village of Sawotratap, a few kilometers outside Indonesia’s second city of Surabaya, from where the doomed Airbus A320-200 departed early Sunday bound for Singapore.

But three members of her family who were with her on the plane still have not been identified.

“Their house has been in a panic since Sunday,” a neighbor named Umaroyah told Reuters. “Everyone in the neighborhood knows someone who was on that plane.”

On Friday, three more of the 22 bodies so far recovered were identified. They were Kevin Alexander Soetjipto, an alum of St. Albertus Catholic high school in Malang; Grayson Herbert Linaksita, a resident of Surabaya; and flight attendant Khairunnisa Haidar, 22. All four identified to date are Indonesian nationals.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted Friday that he would accompany his crew member’s remains to join their families. Palembang is Khairunnisa’s hometown.

F.H. Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), told a press conference Friday in Jakarta that the priorities today are to find the body of the plane and the black box in addition to the search and recovery of the bodies.

However, waves of up to 4 m (13 ft.) on Friday meant that the 47 divers charged with finding more of the 162 passengers and crew were struggling to work.

Some 29 ships and 17 aircraft are busy scouring the busy Karimata Strait for wreckage. Reports on Wednesday that the plane had been found on the seabed seem to have been premature, but the search area Friday was whittled down to around 1,575 square nautical miles.

This is was significantly reduced from Thursday’s search zone of some 13,500 sq km — roughly the size of Connecticut.

According to David Newbery, a Hong Kong flight captain and accredited aircraft-accident investigator, “The spot where the plane vanished from radar simply represents when there was a power interruption to the electronics. An airplane without any engines could glide for over 100 miles from 32,000 ft.”

Basarnas says it will speed up sending recovered bodies from Pangkalan Bun, in Central Kalimantan province, to Surabaya, in East Java, to minimize further deterioration. “As soon as the bodies arrive in Pangkalan Bun, we will evacuate them to Surabaya because we are worried the [local] hospital isn’t sterile,” the Basarnas operational director S.B. Supriyadi told reporters Friday in the Central Kalimantan town.

He later added that eight bodies had now been sent Surabaya, 10 were in the hospital at Pangkalan Bun and four were aboard a search vessel.

Forensic attempts to identify one of those recovered have already proved problematic, because fingerprints are inconclusive after bodies have been exposed to seawater for so long. Other identification methods, such as dental records and DNA, take much longer to process, meaning there’s a race against time for families to gain much needed closure and perform funeral rites.

On Thursday, French agency BEA, which investigates all fatal accidents involving Airbus planes, said its investigators were helping with underwater searches for the aircraft’s two data recorders.

Finding the data recorders, colloquially known as black boxes, is crucial to determining what made the single-aisle, twin-engine jetliner crash. Latest analysis of radar signals indicate the plane may have made an extremely steep climb and descent, possibly because of severe weather.

With reporting by Yenni Kwok

TIME weather

‘Snow Squall’ Causes New Year’s Day Pileup on Canadian Highway

Dozens of vehicles were involved in a series of collisions on a highway in Ontario

This video, captured by Mark Jesley en route from Toronto to Montreal Thursday, shows the aftermath of several multi-vehicle accidents caused by slippery road conditions across Canada.

“Within two minutes we saw a transport hit another car that was in front of us,” Jesley told TIME. The Ontario Provincial Police confirmed to The Weather Channel that “dozens of vehicles” were involved in a series of collisions on Highway 401 near Odessa, Ontario, on New Year’s Day.

“A lot of the cars around us didn’t have their lights turned on,” Jesley said. “The fact that we had ours on was at least partially to play that we didn’t get rear ended.”

An Ontario Provincial Police spokesperson told time that officers were still on the road following the crash, which occurred around 12 p.m. ET.

A public weather alert had been issued Thursday for snow squalls in the area.

TIME indonesia

Better Weather Allows AirAsia Search to Resume

Indonesia Plane
Indonesian soldiers carry the bodies of victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 upon arrival at Indonesian Military Air Force airport in Surabaya, Indonesia, on Dec. 31, 2014 Firdia Lisnawati—AP

The break in the weather could greatly speed up recovery efforts that have been severely hampered since the first bodies were spotted on Tuesday

(PANGKALAN BUN, INDONESIA) — A much needed break in the weather gave searchers a window Thursday to “fight with full force” to find the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501, with officials also hustling to locate the fuselage of the plane that crashed in the sea four days ago.

Only seven of the 162 bodies have been recovered so far, with four of them found over the past two days arriving Thursday morning in Pangkalan Bun on Borneo island. They will later be flown for identification to Surabaya, where the two-hour flight to Singapore originated on Sunday.

“The visibility is good this morning, we are ready to fight with full force to search for bodies, wreckages that can reveal what went wrong with this accident,” said First Marshal Agus Dwi Putranto, an Air Force Operation commander helping to lead the search, adding four aircraft were dispatched to the area just after sunrise.

Choppy conditions had prevented divers from entering the water on Wednesday, and helicopters were largely grounded. But 18 ships surveyed the narrowed search area. Sonar images identified what appeared to be large parts of the plane, but strong currents were moving the debris.

Thursday’s break in weather — blue skies and calm seas despite earlier storm predictions — could greatly speed up recovery efforts that have been severely hampered since the first bodies were spotted on Tuesday. Vice Air Marshal Sunarbowo Sandi, search and rescue coordinator in Pangkalan Bun, the closest town to the targeted area, said he was hopeful divers would be able to explore the wreckage site.

“It’s possible the bodies are in the fuselage,” he said. “So it’s a race now against time and weather.”

It is still unclear what brought the plane down. The jet’s last communication indicated the pilots were worried about bad weather. They sought permission to climb above threatening clouds but were denied because of heavy air traffic. Four minutes later, the airliner disappeared from the radar without issuing a distress signal.

The cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders, or black boxes, must be retrieved before officials can start determining what caused the crash. Some items recovered so far include a life jacket, an emergency exit window, children’s shoes, a blue suitcase and backpacks filled with food.

Simple wooden coffins — numbered 001 and 002 — with purple flowers on top contained the first two bodies, which were sent Wednesday from Pangkalan Bun to Surabaya for autopsies. The two victims were a woman wearing blue jeans and a boy. Three males and two females were also recovered, all but one was transported from a warship Thursday.

Nearly all the passengers were Indonesian, and many were Christians of Chinese descent. The country is predominantly Muslim, but sizeable pockets of people of other faiths are found throughout the sprawling archipelago. Around 10 percent of those in Surabaya, the nation’s second-largest city, are Christian.

Many family members have remained at the Surabaya airport since getting word that the plane had disappeared. Some, like 15-year-old Chiara Natasha, are now alone.

Her entire family was coming to visit her in Singapore for New Year’s.

She had just moved there in November to study at a Methodist girls’ school on a government scholarship. Her parents and two brothers had promised to join her to celebrate the holiday and help her settle into dormitory life.

But instead of greeting her relatives at the airport, she returned home Sunday to Surabaya, Indonesia, to seek any word about the fate of AirAsia Flight 8501, praying that they had somehow survived.

Families who lost loved ones aboard the jetliner endured another excruciating day of waiting Wednesday as bad weather hindered efforts to recover any more bodies and sent wreckage drifting far from the crash site.

“Help us, God, to move forward, even though we are surrounded by darkness,” the Rev. Philip Mantofa, whose church lost about 40 members in the disaster, told families gathered in a waiting room at the Surabaya airport.

On Wednesday, about 100 relatives gathered for the airport prayer service where Mantofa urged them to hold onto their faith despite their pain. About 40 members of his Mawar Sharon Church died in the crash.

“Some things do not make sense to us, but God is bigger than all this,” he said. “Our God is not evil.”

Before breaking up, those gathered stood together and sang with their hands reaching upward. “I surrender all. I surrender all,” they repeated. “I surrender all to God our savior.”

Many family members had planned to travel to Pangkalan Bun, 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the area where bodies were first spotted, to start identifying their loved ones. However, the manager of the Surabaya airport, Trikora Hardjo, later said the trip was canceled after authorities suggested their presence could slow down the operation.

Instead, some relatives gave blood for DNA tests and submitted photos of their loved ones along with identifying information such as tattoos or birthmarks that could help make the process easier.

___

Ng reported from Surabaya, Indonesia. Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini, Ali Kotarumalos and Margie Mason in Jakarta contributed to this report.

TIME weather

Las Vegas May See Rare Snowfall by New Year’s Eve

New Years Snow-Vegas
In this Dec. 17, 2008, file photo, snow covers the sides and sphinx of the Luxor Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip John Gurzinski—AP

A white New Year, if not a white Christmas

Las Vegas may get a “rare” dusting of snow overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday, with some areas getting between 3 and 5 in. according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

“The best window for seeing snow in the Las Vegas Valley will be Wednesday morning into the early afternoon,” the NWS says. The service warned against travel on area highways on Wednesday and cautioned against using mountain hiking trails.

Meanwhile, much of the U.S.’s western and central regions are also bracing for bitter cold temperatures, with winter-storm warnings in effect for communities reaching from Southern California to the southern high plains. Some areas of the central and southern plains could feel temperatures between 20 to 40 degrees below average on New Year’s Eve, the NWS said.

TIME Malaysia

Flooding Kills 24 in Malaysia and Thailand

Flood situation worsens in north-east Malaysia
An aerial view of a settlement submerged by floodwaters in the Pengkalan Chepa district of Kelantan, Malaysia, Dec. 28, 2014. Azhar Rahim—EPA

Nearly 160,000 have been left homeless since the flooding began

Flooding in Malaysia and Thailand has killed 24 people and left nearly 160,000 homeless since mid-December, in the deadliest regional flood season in a decade, according to recent reports.

Malaysian authorities said the rain is expected to last at least another week, Reuters reported.

The death total includes 10 in Malaysia and 14 in Southern Thailand.

The news comes as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited sites of the flooding following his return from Hawaii on Friday. Razak had been criticized for playing golf with U.S. President Barack Obama during the floods.

[Reuters]

TIME weather

West Awakes to White Christmas as Storms Hamper Holiday Travel

Snow Storm Christmas
A snow plow clears the streets on Dec. 24, 2014 in Denver. Brent Lewis—Denver Post/Getty Images

Even Hawaii is expected to see some snow

Western parts of the U.S. awoke to a white Christmas Thursday, as much of the nation dealt with a drenching from the storm front that snarled holiday travel plans for millions of Americans.

Between two and six inches of snow was forecast in the valleys in northern California, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, according to the National Weather Service, with higher elevations facing up to a foot of powder.

Even Hawaii was expected to see some snow, as a blizzard warning remained in effect for the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island…

TIME weather

Christmas Eve Travel Chaos in Aftermath of Storms

A day after killer storms raked the South, millions of holiday travelers wrestled Wednesday with wet roads and flight delays. More than 200 flights were canceled and more than 650 delayed as rain soaked the East Coast from Maine to Florida and another band of rain hit the critical air travel hub of Chicago.

Delays of an hour were reported at Philadelphia International Airport and 45 minutes at LaGuardia in New York, according to FlightAware. Drivers on Interstate 95 dealt with rain, fog and wind. At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, security lines deepened to half an hour.

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME weather

Four Killed by Tornadoes in Mississippi

Severe Weather Mississippi
Police inspect Kids' Kampus, a day-care facility after a tornado ripped the roof off of the building in Sumrall, Miss., on Dec. 23, 2014 Eli Baylis—AP

The state and region are bracing for more bad weather ahead of Christmas

At least four people in Mississippi were killed by tornadoes on Tuesday, in what a Weather Channel meteorologist described as possibly the deadliest December tornado occurrence in Mississippi since 1953.

Two of the deaths were in Marion County, and the other two in a mobile home in Jones County, NBC News reports.

Meanwhile, tornadoes and hail are continuing to scuttle holiday travel plans across the southeastern U.S. At least two tornadoes were reported in Louisiana and Georgia, and a tornado watch was in effect on Tuesday for parts of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

More than 5,600 flights were delayed in the U.S. on Tuesday, as of 10:00 p.m., and almost 850 were canceled, according to FlightAware.com.

[NBC]

TIME weather

Tornadoes, Rain and Snow Bring Holiday Travel Chaos

Getty Images

Dozens of flights were scrapped in Philadelphia and New York, and a tornado and hail watch was issued for parts of Alabama, Louisiana and Texas

Good luck getting home for Christmas.

Delays began piling up at East Coast airports on Tuesday because of a storm system packing strong winds, thunderstorms, snow and perhaps even a tornado or two. Another system is threatening rain and heavy snow in the Northwest and Rockies.

Dozens of flights were scrapped at Philadelphia International and at LaGuardia in New York, and delays ran as long as two hours.

Farther south, the National Weather Service posted a tornado watch for parts of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and warned of the possibility of 2-inch-wide hail. Roy Lucksinger, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said 3 to 5 inches of rain was possible across the South…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME weather

Winds and Snow Threaten Travel Chaos in Christmas Week Storm

Meterologists warn of possible isolated tornadoes too

A huge weather system packing gusting winds, thunderstorms, snow and even the odd twister is threatening Tuesday to put a damper on millions of Americans’ holiday travel plans. Significant road and air travel delays are expected across the East Coast on Tuesday and Wednesday courtesy of a messy mix of rain, wind, clouds and fog, according to forecasters.

“The Gulf Coast will see the worst of the severe weather on Tuesday, with thunderstorms, as much as 3 to 5 inches of rain and damaging winds right across Louisiana and into…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

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