The director of Indonesia’s search and operations team confirmed that reports of smoke on Belitung Island are coming in amid the search for missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501.
The director made the confirmation to CBS News late Monday (early Tuesday in Asia). The search area has included the island all along.
On the other hand, the director, Henry Soelistyo, was quoted by the Jakarta Post as saying “We have not yet found any signal or indication of the plane’s whereabouts.”
Early reports just after the disappearance early Sunday indicated that the plane may have crashed on the island, but searches have so far found no plane or wreckage. Fishermen told Bangka that they heard a loud explosion near the island.
Fishermen told Channel News that they searched the water around the island for hours, but found nothing.
The search included approximately 60 people in four boats. Some local fisherman had said they spotted the plane going down near the island.
The U.S. Navy is sending the destroyer USS Sampson to the area. It’s slated to arrive later Tuesday local time.
At the same time, there are unconfirmed reports that wreckage was discovered off the island. Bangka reported on the reports, but emphasized that there has been no official confirmation.
The AirAsia flight, which had 162 passengers and crew on board, was en route to Singapore from Indonesia. After departing at 5:35 a.m. local time, the plane vanished.
Multiple countries, including Indonesia and the United States, are involved in the search.
It’s the second time a plane has vanished this year, following the stunning disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
That plane still has not been found despite months of searching.
AirAsia issued a statement on Facebook on Monday:
AirAsia Indonesia has received confirmation from The National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (BASARNAS) that an international search and rescue mission from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia has been mobilized in the search of flight QZ8501. The mission in Surabaya has resumed today at 06.00 AM LT (GMT+7).
AirAsia Indonesia continue to support these efforts and has been actively cooperating with the search and rescue authorities.
AirAsia Indonesia’s primary focus remains on the families and Sunu Widyatmoko, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Indonesia is currently stationed at the family centre in Surabaya. We have been keeping the families updated on the search and rescue efforts as well as provide emotional support. Another group of AirAsia officials are providing the same to the families based in Singapore.