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December 17, 2017

DND holds off infra dev’t in Pag-Asa

The defense department is holding off repairs and other planned infrastructure projects on Pag-Asa Island, one of seven islets and two reefs occupied by Filipino troops in the disputed Spratly Islands.

Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario pointed out that the maintenance and repair of facilities in Pag-Asa Island are not covered by the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of parties involved in the West Philippine Sea territorial disputes.

“Repair and maintenance is okay but before we can move construction materials to Pag-Asa, we have to build a port and doing so could change the landscape. It’s not allowed in the DOC,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in reference to earlier approved plans for the repair of Rancudo airfield in the island.

Rancudo airfield is a key supply line for the troops and 200 civilian residents.

Pag-Asa Island is the seat of Kalayaan town of Palawan that has jurisdiction over the Philipine-held territory in the disputed region, claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

“We cannot repair the (airfield) because the construction materials will be coming from outside. Getting inside, if it will be by aircraft it will be very expensive and very impractical. So you have to bring in the boat but the boat cannot come in because there is no pier,” Gazmin said.

Security officials have been calling on the government to start immediate repairs of the Philippine facilities in the region, not necessarily to antagonize China and other claimant-countries, but to improve the morale and welfare of troops manning the outposts.

One security official noted that it is only the Philippines that is not doing anything to improve living conditions of the troops manning the outposts located in the middle of nowhere.

He said this is contrast to what China, Vietnam and Taiwan are doing in their respective controlled areas.

Marines are deployed on a three-month rotation basis in the disputed region but this is now being threatened by the increasing presence of Chinese warships and coast guard vessels in the area.

Ayungin Shoal, located within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), is being guarded by Marines on board a grounded Navy supply ship, the BRP Sierra Madre.

China, despite being a party of the DOC signed in 2000, has become very aggressive in laying its maritime claim to almost the entire South China Sea, building artificial islets on four reefs despite protests by the Philippine government.

Six- and three-story buildings, as well as ports, helipads, runway with gun implacement, are now sprouting out from these Chinese-built and controlled artificial islets formerly known as Kennar Reef, Calderon Reef and Burgos Reef by Manila.

Aside from completing its reclamation of these former obscure West Philippine Sea areas, Beijing is also developing further the Panganiban or Mischief Reef, an area located within the territorial waters of Palawan.

‘Serious concern’

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed serious concern yesterday after the Philippines said it would resume repair and reconstruction works on disputed islands in the South China Sea, saying Manila was infringing on Chinese sovereignty.

The Philippines had halted activities last year over concerns about the effect on an international arbitration complaint filed against China.

Manila called on all countries last October to stop construction work on small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China.

China itself is undertaking massive reclamation works in the area, while Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam have also been improving their facilities.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was “seriously concerned” by the remarks of Secretary Del Rosario.

“On the one hand the Philippines makes unreasonable criticism about China’s normal building activities on its own isles, and on the other announces it will resume repairs on an airport, runway and other illegal constructions on China’s Spratly Islands, which it illegally occupies,” Hua said.

“This is not only a series infringement of China’s sovereignty, but it also exposes the Philippines’ hypocrisy,” she told a daily news briefing, calling on the Philippines to withdraw from the islands.

The Philippine foreign ministry said the works, including repairs to an airstrip, did not violate an informal code of conduct in the South China Sea because they would not alter the status quo in the disputed area. The 2002 code was signed by China and 10 Southeast Asian states in Phnom Penh.

In 2013, Manila filed an arbitration case at The Hague questioning the maritime boundaries claimed by Beijing. Del Rosario said Manila expects a decision in February next year. ; – With Reuters

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DND holds off infra dev’t in Pag-Asa

Sailing-Malacca Strait hazards spell danger for Ocean Race fleet

ALICANTE, Spain, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Volvo Ocean Race’s six-strong fleet enters one of the most hazardous phases of the nine-month, round-the-world event in the next 24 hours when it will reach the Malacca Strait on the third leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China.

The 500-nautical mile (nm) stretch of water, which separates the Indonesian island of Sumatra and Malaysia, narrows to 1.5nm as it funnels past Singapore into the South China Sea and is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

It is notorious for the huge mountain of man-made debris that has been dumped there. The racing boats have had to dodge discarded washing machines and fridges in past editions of the 38,739nm, 41-year-old event, which is held every three years.

There are huge tankers to avoid plus dozens of slow moving or stationary fishing vessels to navigate around and their nets can easily become snagged in the boats’ keels.

“We’ve got to negotiate this really narrow passage with intense shipping and get out of that alive and in one piece,” Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Justin Slattery (Ireland) told Reuters on Saturday.

“There are loads of hazards,” added Britain’s Dee Caffari, of Team SCA, the only all-women crew in the fleet and the first to enter the male-dominated race for 12 years.

“Everyone always talks about the Malacca Strait. Tidal influences, land influences, fishing and shipping vessels. It’s going to be pretty full on,” she told reporters from the boat.

The 4,670nm leg is led by Chinese boat Dongfeng Race Team. At 0940 GMT on Saturday, they led by 65.7nm from Spanish boat MAPFRE.

Victory in Sanya around January 27-28, the likely arrival dates of the leaders, would take Dongfeng top of the overall standings in the race.

No Chinese boat has ever won a leg in the event, formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race, despite an entry in both the 2008-09 and 2011-12 editions. Dongfeng nearly broke that duck in the first two legs, but finished a narrow runner-up in both.

A seventh boat in the starting fleet, Team Vestas Wind, was grounded on a reef in leg two and is currently being shipped to Italy for a rebuild ahead of a planned return to the event in June for the final two legs from Lisbon.

The race, which started on Oct. 4 in Alicante, Spain, is scheduled to finish in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27. (Editing by Toby Davis)

See more here: 

Sailing-Malacca Strait hazards spell danger for Ocean Race fleet

Chinese leaders pick through man-made obstacles

Alicante (Spain) (AFP) – Leaders Dongfeng Race Team and the rest of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet were carefully picking their way through the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday in Leg 3 of the nine-month marathon offshore race.

Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier (France) protected a narrow 30-nautical mile (nm) advantage over closest rivals Team Brunel (Netherlands) with three other boats within 5nm of them (0940 GMT).

For all, however, it has been a case of very watchful progress because of the pollution in the Bay as they headed towards another hazardous stretch of water, the Malacca Strait, that separates the Indonesian island of Sumatra and Malaysia and is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking wrote in a blog: “There was so much plastic in the water that I started counting in several intervals of 10 minutes for a duration of four hours, the amount of plastic I could see floating by.

“A scary result was the outcome. Every 37 seconds on average I saw a piece of rubbish floating by, either big or small. I am not a scientist or researcher, but the total weight of this trash floating around in this part of the world must be enormous.”

Already crews have had to release fishing nets and all sorts of debris from under their boats on their passage through the 4,670nm stage from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, Hainan Island, on the southern-most tip of China.

Dongfeng, Team Brunel and Abu Dhabi Ocean were locked at the top of the overall leaderboard on four points apiece after two of the 11 legs of the race, which started in Alicante, Spain, on October 4 last year and is scheduled to finish in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27.

Caudrelier, a member of the victorious Groupama crew in the previous edition in 2011-12, would dearly love victory in this stage, which is expected to be completed around January 25-26 after three weeks of racing depending on weather conditions. They have just under 2,500nm to sail before then.

None of the three Chinese-backed boats to have taken part in the 41-year-old event – formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race – has won a leg and victory in Sanya would be the ideal place to break that duck. It would also put Dongfeng Race Team narrowly ahead in the overall standings.

“Onboard we are focused but tired from the constant battle of nerves. Nothing is ever for keeps on this leg, we need to fighting for another 15 days to get our boat home,” said Caudrelier, 40.

The Volvo Ocean Race is held every three years and is generally accepted as offshore sailing’s toughest and most prestigious event. This is the 12th edition.

Latest standings after Leg 2: 1 Team Brunel (Netherlands) 4 pts, 2 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 4, 3 Dongfeng Race Team (China) 4, 4 Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.) 9, 5 MAPFRE (Spain) 11, 6 Team Vestas Wind (Denmark) 12, 7 Team SCA (Sweden) 12.

Originally posted here:

Chinese leaders pick through man-made obstacles

Chinese boat stretches lead in Volvo Ocean Race

ALICANTE, Spain (AP) — Dongfeng Race Team stretched its lead at the head of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet in the third leg to China on Sunday.

Charles Caudrelier’s crew are aiming to become the first Chinese boat to win a leg in offshore sailing’s leading round-the-world race, which was first held in 1973.

There would be no better place to do it than Sanya, their home port on the southern tip of China, which is the destination of the 4,670-nautical mile leg three that began in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 3 and is likely to be completed around Jan. 24.

On Sunday, after nine days of sailing, they had increased their lead of just under 12 miles over closest challengers, Team Brunel of the Netherlands.

The boats were locked at the top of the standings before the start of the leg on four points with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

The fleet still has just under 3,000 nautical miles to sail, including a hazardous stretch through the Malacca Strait, which is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and separates the Indonesian island of Sumatra from Malaysia.

The racing boats will need to dodge slow-moving fishing vessels and all kinds of debris in the much-polluted waters.

Meanwhile, Team Vestas Wind, the Danish boat that was grounded during leg two from Cape Town and Abu Dhabi on Nov. 29, was heading for Italy for a rebuild.

The target is to return the badly damaged vessel to the race for the final two legs from Lisbon in June.

The 38,739 nautical mile, nine-month race is held every three years and visits 11 ports around the world and every continent.

View original article: 

Chinese boat stretches lead in Volvo Ocean Race

Top Asian News at 4:30 p.m. GMT

SINUI ISLAND, South Korea (AP) — He ran the first chance he got. The sun beat down on the shallow, sea-fed fields where Kim Seong-baek was forced to work without pay, day after 18-hour day mining the big salt crystals that blossomed in the mud around him. Half-blind and in rags, Kim grabbed another slave, and the two disabled men headed for the coast.

PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia (AP) — After nearly a week of searching for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501, rescue teams battling monsoon rains had their most successful day yet on Friday, more than tripling the number of bodies pulled from the Java Sea, some still strapped to their seats. Of the 30 corpses recovered so far, 21 were found on Friday, many of them by a U.S. Navy ship, according to officials.

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — If AirAsia bounces back from its first fatal disaster, much of the credit will go to its effusive founder Tony Fernandes and a well-oiled communications machine. From the highly visible compassion shown by Fernandes to details such as changing the airline’s bright red logo to a somber gray online, experts say the Malaysia-based budget carrier’s initial response to the tragedy is a textbook example of how to communicate in a crisis.

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — At the muddy gravesite where Hayati Lutfiah Hamid was buried, something was missing. Though around 150 villagers had gathered to lay the first identified victim of AirAsia Flight 8501 to rest, the people who would mourn her most were not there. Her husband, Djoko Suseno, 9-year-old daughter, Naura Kanita Rosada Suseno, and mother-in-law, Soemanik Saeran, are all still missing in the Java Sea after their plane went down Sunday, killing all 162 people on board.

SHANGHAI (AP) — Like hundreds of thousands of other revelers, 24-year-old Pan Haiqin decided to ring in the new year on Shanghai’s famed riverfront as the skyscrapers flashed and sparkled. But as the crowd grew and then turned into an out-of-control crush of bodies, the real estate professional never made it up steps to a viewing platform to see the dazzling lights. Nearly 20 hours later, her parents and friends identified her trampled body in a city morgue, one of 36 people killed in one of the deadliest accidents in this showcase Chinese city. Some 49 others were injured.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Brothers of an Australian Al-Jazeera English journalist held in Egypt for more than a year said Friday that their lawyers were focusing on deportation at President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s command as their best option. An Egyptian appeals court on Thursday ordered the retrial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists including Peter Greste held on terror-related charges, a ruling that their lawyers hoped was a step toward resolving a case that brought a storm of international criticism on Egypt’s government.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Two Afghan soldiers have been arrested in connection with the deaths of at least 28 people, mostly women and children, who were killed by artillery fired from military checkpoints at a wedding party, an official said Friday. Gen. Sultan Mahmoud, the head of the army in southern Helmand province, where the incident took place on Wednesday night, said the soldiers were arrested late on Friday. Another eight soldiers were still under investigation, he told The Associated Press.

BEIJING (AP) — A senior Chinese diplomat has been removed from his position and is being investigated for an unspecified disciplinary violation. A two-sentence statement from the Foreign Ministry did not offer more details Friday about the removal of Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng. The China News Service reported that Zhang was the head of the ministry’s protocol department.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Prince Norodom Ranariddh, a former prime minister of Cambodia who was ousted in a coup and later expelled from the political party he helped found, is seeking a comeback. Ranariddh said in a letter to current leaders of the royalist Funcinpec party that he was accepting their invitation to reassume its presidency. It had removed him in 2006 for alleged incompetence.

In this photo by Heng Sinith, a Cambodian farmer climbs a sugar palm tree to collect palm juice. The farmer, 42-year-old Sam Leng, earns $5 a day by selling juice, a popular refreshment in Southeast and South Asia. It is extracted by cutting the stalk bearing the flowers and hanging a bamboo container to collect the juice, usually overnight. The sweet, fresh juice, normally harvested between November and March, is sold in containers carried by vendors over the shoulder or on bicycles.

BEIJING (AP) — Images of bodies and wreckage floating in Indonesian waters gave relatives of those lost aboard AirAsia Flight 8501 anguish and grief, but they also provided the answers that other families have sought in vain for nearly 10 months. Those with loved ones aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 can only imagine what has happened to them, and can only hope to one day know for sure.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year’s speech Thursday that he is open to more talks or even a summit with his South Korean counterpart, a statement welcomed by Seoul, which in turn urged the North to take concrete steps toward normalization of relations. Kim’s call for improving inter-Korea relations comes as Pyongyang is facing heightened criticism over its human rights record and souring ties with Washington over allegations it was involved in the massive hacking attack on Sony Pictures linked to “The Interview,” a dark comedy that portrayed an assassination attempt on Kim.

Revelers crowded New York’s Times Square and converged on the beaches of Brazil and skyscrapers of Dubai to say good riddance to a turbulent 2014 marred by terror woes, Ebola outbreaks and a horrific series of airline disasters. But tragedy struck in Shanghai, Baghdad was on edge and protesters in the United States delivered a sobering reminder of one of the year’s biggest stories.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A huge blaze believed to have been ignited by firecrackers razed nearly a thousand shanties and killed three people in a creekside slum in the Philippine capital, one of more than a dozen fires across the country linked to raucous New Year’s celebrations. Strong winds fanned the flames racing through nearly a kilometer (half a mile) -long row of shanties in a village in suburban Quezon city in metropolitan Manila before dawn Thursday, said village officer Noel Carino. Firefighters struggled to get near the burning shanties because of narrow alleys.

An AirAsia jet with 162 people on board crashed Sunday morning while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore on a scheduled two-hour flight. Here’s a look at the latest developments: ___

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Top Asian News at 4:30 p.m. GMT

AirAsia #QZ8501: Search for black box recorders could 'take a week'; one body returned to family

(Click to see larger version)(Click to see larger version)

REPORTING FROM SINGAPORE [Times are in GMT+8, unless specified]

WHAT WE KNOW:

– Bad weather continues to hamper search efforts.

– Five bodies recovered from the search area for AirAsia flight QZ8501 arrived in Surabaya for identification, where forensic investigators’ preliminary findings reveal they have been dead for three days. They will be identified Thursday, and their families will be informed first.

– A total of nine bodies have been recovered so far, says BASARNAS.

– Search teams are anxious to locate the jet’s fuselage — its main body — on the likelihood that some bodies are trapped in there, alongside its all-important flight data recorders, more commonly known as “black boxes”. Officials say it could take a week to find the recorders.

– Naval vessels and aircraft from a range of countries continue to arrive in the vicinity to assist in the retrieval effort.

IF YOU’RE READING THIS FOR THE FIRST TIME:

Indonesia air traffic control lost contact with AirAsia flight QZ8501 on Sunday morning. The flight was en route to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia, with 162 people on board. The plane was last seen on radar over the Java Sea between Belitung island and Pontianak, on Indonesia’s part of Kalimantan island, barely an hour after it left Juanda International Airport. Communications logs suggest the pilot was approved to veer left because of poor weather conditions. He then asked air traffic control for permission to climb to 38,000 feet from 32,000. There was no further communication after that.

We’ve also put together the stories of some of the passengers and crew on board the plane. Read them here.

LATEST UPDATES:

Thursday, 1 January

9.29pm: The RSS Valour, deployed by the Singapore Navy, has recovered pieces of debris and equipment from QZ8501, says Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

7.15pm: General Moeldoko, Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces tweeted that bad weather and rough seas are hampering search efforts.

Singapore’s Ministry of Defence says the RSS Kallang will arrive in the search area on Friday. The vessel has underwater search operations capabilities. It has also flown in an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.

5.49pm: An eighth body found at the search site has arrived at Pangkalan Bun.

One body that arrived on Wednesday has been identified as Hayati Lutfiah Hamid, and has been handed over to her family. Meanwhile, four more bodies – two females and two males – have arrived in Surabaya, reports Channel NewsAsia.

Police officers and family members of Hayati Lutfiah, a passenger of AirAsia QZ8501, pray next to her coffin at Bhayankara Hospital in Surabaya January 1, 2015. REUTERS/Athit PerawongmethaPolice officers and family members of Hayati Lutfiah, a passenger of AirAsia QZ8501, pray next to her coffin at …

3.00pm: Divers looking for the wreck of an AirAsia Indonesia jet off Borneo were unable to resume full-scale operations on Thursday in poor weather and heavy seas and an air safety official said it could take a week to find the black box flight recorders. None of the black box “pings” have been detected. More details here.

1.40pm: Five bodies retrieved from the Java Sea will be flown to Surabaya, reported TODAY. BG Arthur Tampi, Chief of Medicine and Health told the media that the bodies were in varying stages of decomposition. A small window of fine weather closed, giving way to rising seas which have dogged the search from the start. More details here.

12:48pm: A reporter for Channel NewsAsia in Pangkalan Bun says another body has arrived at its hospital. This takes the total number of retrieved bodies arriving on land to seven.

12:42pm: About an hour ago, Malaysia’s chief of navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar tweeted an image of the waves from KD Lekiu, one of the Malaysian navy ships in the search area:

11:59am: Four bodies departed from Pangkalan Bun in a Hercules C130 plane for Surabaya at 11:30am Singapore time, reports Malaysia’s New Straits Times. According to Channel NewsAsia, they consist of three women and a man.

11:09am: A ship from Indonesia’s survey and technological agency has arrived at the search area, said Channel NewsAsia’s correspondent in Jakarta, citing BASARNAS from a morning press conference. Among the technology available on the ship is a multi-beam sonar that it is hoped will detect the wreckage of the plane at the bottom of the Java Sea.

BASARNAS also confirmed this morning that four bodies are set to depart from a hospital in Pangkalan Bun for Surabaya to be identified by forensic investigators, adding that several sorties are heading out from Jakarta for the resumed air and sea search.

Separately, two South Korean aircraft have joined the aerial search, Singapore daily The Straits Times reports citing BASARNAS as well.

10:39am: The first two bodies to arrive at Surabaya’s Bhayangkara Police Hospital on Wednesday have been identified, says a Channel NewsAsia reporter there, citing a police spokesperson. Families of the two victims will be informed first, he said.

Over in Pangkalan Bun, says the same reporter, four more bodies now at a hospital there are scheduled to depart for Surabaya at 11am Singapore time.

9:41am: Malaysia’s chief of navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar has tweeted today’s search area, which has roughly doubled in size from yesterday’s. In all, 31 ships are deployed between four sectors.

9:20am:

AirAsia stewardess Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi, 22, studied law at Indonesia's Universitas Sriwijaya. (Photo: The Malaysian Insider)AirAsia stewardess Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi, 22, studied law at Indonesia’s Universitas Sriwijaya. (Photo: The Malaysian …

Channel NewsAsia reports that the body of the female cabin crew member has been identified. Citing local media, the Singapore-based regional broadcaster said 22-year-old flight attendant Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi‘s name tag was still pinned to her uniform when she was found.

Separately, the Associated Press reports that a break in bad weather on New Year’s morning allowed search and recovery efforts to resume. A Channel NewsAsia correspondent on the ground in central Kalimantan said on Thursday morning, however, that weather was forecast to take a turn for the worse, with wind speeds forecast at between 6 and 60km/h, and waves predicted to be between 1.3 and 3 metres high.

Indonesians hold candles to pray for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 in Surabaya, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. Bad weather hindered efforts to recover victims of the jetliner on Wednesday, and sent wreckage drifting far from the crash site, as grieving relatives prayed for strength to endure their losses. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)Indonesians hold candles to pray for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 in Surabaya, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. …

Overnight, New Year celebrations were largely cancelled throughout East Java province, while hundreds attended a candlelight vigil for the plane victims in Surabaya. Over in Jakarta, reporters on the ground said celebrations were muted, and festivities kicked off with a prayer for those on the flight.

8:40am: Officers of the National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a victim's body of AirAsia flight QZ 8501 from a boat to an ambulance at Kumai port in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. A massive hunt for the victims of the jet resumed in the Java Sea on Wednesday, but wind, strong currents and high surf hampered recovery efforts as distraught family members anxiously waited to identify their loved ones. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)Officers of the National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a victim’s body of AirAsia flight QZ 8501 …

The above and other images we have received from the Associated Press showing rescuers transferring a victim’s body from a boat to an ambulance at Pangkalan Bun’s Kumai Port appear to suggest that the Bung Tomo, which was reportedly carrying five of the first seven bodies found, has overnight reached land.

Singapore daily TODAY published pictures saying two bodies retrieved by the Indonesian navy are at a hospital in Pangkalan Bun awaiting the trip back to Surabaya for identification. A Channel NewsAsia reporter cited hospital staff saying the two arrived last night, while three more are slated to arrive there later today.

Provided the weather clears sufficiently for planes to take flight, the bodies brought to land should make it to Surabaya for identification today.

8:17am: The Wall Street Journal reports that the Malaysian navy has identified one of the bodies that have been found so far, reportedly from a wallet found on his body. Kevin Alexander Soetjipto was a finance student at Australia’s Monash University, the news agency said.

In a statement on its Facebook page confirming this, Monash University said Soetjipto would have turned 21 today.

Overnight, we reported Malaysia’s Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar as saying that Royal Malaysian Navy ships found four bodies and an evacuation slide from the plane, although it is not clear if the four bodies they found are part of the seven confirmed by Indonesia’s search and rescue agency BASARNAS.

Separately, the Indonesian navy ship Bung Tomo, which was on Wednesday bound for Pangkalan Bun carrying the five bodies that could not be air-flown to land, reportedly found 28 items from the water. These included an exit door, “several suitcases”, snacks, instant porridge and three umbrellas, according to AFP citing a local news channel whom the ship’s commander reportedly spoke to.

The full story:

Bad weather hampered search efforts again on the first day of 2015. A small window of fine weather closed, and teams were unable to locate the wreckage of AirAsia QZ8501.

An official said it could take a week to locate the black box recorder. So far, search teams have not detected any “pings” from the black box.

An eighth body was brought to Pangkalan Bun. Two bodies were identified on Thursday – Hayati Lutfiah Hamid, and university student Kevin Alexander Soetjipto. Hayati’s body has been handed over to her family for burial.

Teams are now combing a larger search area of 13,500 square nautical miles, about twice the size of Wednesday’s search area, said Malaysia’s Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar.

Singapore’s RSS Kallang will arrive in the search area on Friday to assist with search efforts. BASARNAS added that equipment that can detect material underwater has also arrived.

Indonesian police officers carry the coffin of Hayati Lutfiah, a passenger of AirAsia QZ8501, at Bhayankara Hospital in Surabaya January 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Athit PerawongmethaIndonesian police officers carry the coffin of Hayati Lutfiah, a passenger of AirAsia QZ8501, at Bhayankara Hospital …

Unforgiving weather conditions drove recovery efforts to a near-halt on New Year’s eve, as waves of up to 3m in height and strong winds swept bodies and debris from the ill-fated AirAsia flight QZ8501 some 50km eastward from where pieces of the plane were first found just a day earlier.

Ships were on Wednesday dispatched to stand by near the shores of Kalimantan, in case bodies eventually washed up there. Rescuers are racing against time to locate victims and debris from the flight, in a search area that will expand as the recovery effort wears on.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said in a press conference on Wednesday evening that sea search operations are planned to proceed round the clock, even as weather forced aerial search to halt by 5pm Indonesia time. He also said Indonesian search authorities are moving all their mobilised search assets to two spots where they think the aircraft might be.

“The weather unfortunately is not looking good for the next two or three days. That is slowing us down,” he said.

Officers of the National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a body of one of the victims on board the ill-fated AirAsia Flight 8501, from a helicopter upon arrival at the airport in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. A massive hunt for the victims of the jet resumed in the Java Sea on Wednesday, but wind, strong currents and high surf hampered recovery efforts as distraught family members anxiously waited to identify their loved ones. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)Officers of the National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a body of one of the victims on board the ill-fated …

Indonesia’s search and rescue agency BASARNAS nonetheless made some headway on day 4 of the effort, with the retrieval of a total of seven bodies they confirmed to be found in the waters of the search area. This, in turn, was on Wednesday restricted to a 28 by 56 nautical mile region.

Malaysia’s chief of navy also said on his Twitter account that two ships under his purview, KD Lekir and KD Pahang, had collectively found four bodies and an evacuation slide from the plane on Wednesday, although it is not clear if these are among the seven that were confirmed by BASARNAS.

The agency successfully transported two victims — a woman and a teenage boy — by helicopter to land at Pangkalan Bun in central Kalimantan, where they were cleansed, placed into wooden coffins with floral wreaths laid on top, and flown in a Hercules C130 plane to Surabaya’s Lanudal air base.

Indonesian soldiers carry coffins containing bodies of victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 upon arrival at Indonesian Military Air Force base in Surabaya, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. A massive hunt for the victims of the jet resumed in the Java Sea on Wednesday, but wind, strong currents and high surf hampered recovery efforts as distraught family members anxiously waited to identify their loved ones. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)Indonesian soldiers carry coffins containing bodies of victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 upon arrival at Indonesian …

They were then transferred to Bhayankara Police Hospital where forensic investigators commenced the identification process. Investigators determined from decomposition levels of the two bodies that they had died three days ago, in a preliminary report they shared with media at the hospital. Identification and cause of their deaths, they said, will take a longer time to work out.

In a separate update from Channel NewsAsia’s on-ground correspondent in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesian navy ship Bung Tomo, which is believed to be carrying the other five out of the initial seven bodies found, was on Wednesday plying a seven-hour journey to Pangkalan Bun, and was expected to arrive by 9pm Indonesia time.

The Bung Tomo. (Merdeka.com photo)The Bung Tomo. (Merdeka.com photo)

The ship will stay in deep water, while the bodies are transferred to a smaller ship to be brought nearer to shore. They will then be brought over land to a local hospital for cleansing, placed into coffins, and provided the weather clears on Thursday morning, will be flown to Surabaya for identification.

The Bung Tomo also reportedly retrieved a backpack, a child’s shoes and food from the water in the course of its search effort on Wednesday.

Families are slowly being ferried from Juanda International Airport, where they were initially stationed for updates on the flight and their loved ones, to accommodation near the hospital, so they can better assist in identifying the bodies brought over. The family support centre will also be closed and moved to the hospital.

In a bid to quicken the process, local police have also collected DNA samples and identifying information from the immediate relatives of 93 passengers and crew. At Bhayankara hospital, cold containers are ready to store up to 150 bodies, while 130 ambulances stand ready to transport bodies as they arrive at Lanudal.

Indonesian military personnel load a casket containing the body of a AirAsia flight QZ8501 passenger, recovered off the coast of Borneo, into a vehicle at a military base in Surabaya January 1, 2015. …

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Indonesian military personnel load a casket containing the body of a AirAsia flight QZ8501 passenger, recovered off the coast of Borneo, into a vehicle at a military base in Surabaya January 1, 2015. Divers looking for the wreck of the Indonesia AirAsia jet off Borneo were unable to resume full-scale operations on Thursday in poor weather and heavy seas and an air safety official said it could take a week to find the black box flight recorders. REUTERS/Sigit Pamungkas(INDONESIA – Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT MILITARY)

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Reuters | Photo By SIGIT PAMUNGKAS / REUTERS

Thu, Jan 1, 2015 2:36 PM SGT

Meanwhile, a team of crash site investigators from Britain, France, the US and Singapore is on its way to Pangkalan Bun on an Indonesian navy ship. Once they arrive, they will start examining the debris that has been retrieved and brought to land.

Speaking on Tuesday evening, Indonesian president Joko Widodo stressed that the key focus of the country’s efforts is on the retrieval and evacuation of passengers and crew from the area, alongside debris from the plane. “We all pray that all families will be given the strength to face this tragedy,” he said.

He had on Monday night also directed Indonesia’s transport ministry to review aviation procedures while seeking comprehensive weather reports from met agency officials for greater airline safety.

A specialist from Singapore's Ministry of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) showcases a set of underwater locator beacon detector that will be used to assist in locating the flight recorders of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 plane, at Changi Airport in Singapore December 29, 2014. The missing AirAsia jet carrying 162 people could be at the bottom of the sea after it was presumed to have crashed off the Indonesian coast, an official said on Monday, as countries around Asia sent ships and planes to help in the search effort. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER)A specialist from Singapore’s Ministry of Transport’s Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) showcases …

Singapore’s two specialist teams with two underwater locator beacon detectors have been dispatched to the sea search area to assist in locating wreckage and the plane’s black boxes beneath the surface. It now has a total of five ships deployed in the search — the RSS Kallang, a Bedok-class mine counter-measure vessel, set sail for Indonesian waters on Wednesday afternoon.

Malaysia also has several ships and aircraft deployed in the region. A destroyer from the US, the USS Sampson, has arrived at the search area, and a ship from China is also on its way, as are surveillance planes from China and South Korea, to back up the ongoing effort.

On board the missing AirAsia plane are a total of 162 people — 138 adults, 16 children and one infant, making up 155 passengers along with seven crew members (two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer).

The passengers comprise one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one British, three South Koreans and 149 Indonesians, while the crew consists of six Indonesians and one French (the co-pilot). See the full manifest here, and read more about their stories here.

Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority said a total of 40 registered passenger next-of-kin have been flown to Surabaya to join hundreds of other relatives there. It said it will continue assisting and feeding updates to relatives who choose to stay in Singapore.

Moving messages have been pinned to a board at Terminal 2 of Singapore’s Changi Airport, where people penned thoughts expressing their sadness and support over the disaster and loss of lives in post-it notes. The coloured squares were pasted on a board placed outside the relatives’ holding area on Level 3.

Messages for passengers on board the missing AirAsia flight 8501 are placed on a board at Changi International Airport, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014 in Singapore. Searchers combing the Java Sea to find and recover debris and bodies from the AirAsia jet that crashed there have the advantage of working in much shallower waters than those found in the open ocean, but also face challenges that include monsoons, murkiness and trash. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)Messages for passengers on board the missing AirAsia flight 8501 are placed on a board at Changi International …

QZ8501 lost contact with Indonesian air traffic control after 6:14am Indonesia time on Sunday, 42 minutes after departure and slightly more than an hour before it was scheduled to land in Singapore.

Reuters reports that the aircraft was between the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pandan and the town of Pontianak, in West Kalimantan on Borneo island, when it went missing without a distress signal.

The plane stayed on its submitted flight plan route before it asked for permission to deviate to avoid “bad weather” described by officials as dense storm clouds, strong winds and lightning.

State navigation operator AirNav Indonesia revealed the details of the last messages sent between the plane and Indonesian air traffic control, saying that the pilot on board had not explained why he wanted to ascend to 38,000 feet. [Click here]

After giving immediate approval at 6:12am Indonesia time to veer left, which the plane then did, Indonesian air traffic control could not permit the jet to rise to that altitude as AirAsia flight QZ8502 was already cruising at that level. The Jakarta Post reports that Indonesian air traffic control then coordinated with its counterpart in Singapore to determine an approved 34,000 feet altitude. When they informed the pilot of the approved height to ascend to at 6:14am, however, they did not receive any response.


The pilot in command, Captain Iriyanto, had a substantial total of 20,000 flying hours and over 10 years’ experience as a pilot trainer. The first officer, Remi Emmanual Plesel, a total of 2,275 flying hours, said AirAsia, adding that the jet underwent its last scheduled maintenance on 16 November this year.

Air Asia chief Tony Fernandes confirmed the plane had been given the all-clear by aviation technicians, was in “good condition” and “has never had any problems whatsoever”.

Airbus said it would provide full assistance to authorities in charge of the investigation.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Inmarsat vice president of external affairs Chris McLaughlin as saying that AirAsia had started deploying satellite communications on some of its A320s that would provide position updates every two minutes, but the QZ8501 plane was not yet upgraded.

Essential information

AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Centre that is available for family or friends of those who may have been on board the aircraft. The number is +62 212 927 0811 or 031- 869 0855 or 031- 298 6790 (Surabaya).

Relatives of passengers are asked to call the following dedicated hotlines:

Malaysia: +60 321 795 959
Indonesia: +62 212 927 0811
Singapore: +65 6307 7688
Korea: 007 9814 206 9940

AirAsia will release further information as soon as it becomes available. Updated information will also be posted on the AirAsia website at www.airasia.com.

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AirAsia #QZ8501: Search for black box recorders could 'take a week'; one body returned to family

Putrajaya snubbed cheaper energy savings scheme for nuclear plans, forum told

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 24 ― Putrajaya “ignored” a proposed energy savings scheme that could have saved Malaysia billions of ringgit and scrap any need to construct nuclear power plants here, a former civil servant claimed.

Energy efficiency activist Zaini Abdul Wahab, 40, told a forum last night that the government was well aware of alternative options to the two nuclear power plants it was planning to build in Malaysia.

“Because I know for a fact that it was mentioned in Parliament and in many seminars by the agencies, by having just a 10 year programme on energy efficiency, the only money required from the government is less than one billion (ringgit), average [RM100,000] a year, we can avoid capacity of at least 3GW of power demand, equivalent to three nuclear power plants,” he told a 60-strong crowd at a forum here last night.

Zaini, who has worked with the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry (Kettha) and Sustainable Energy Development Authority (Seda) during his eight-year service, claimed that the government had “ignored” the proposed programme, which would have purportedly translated into billions of savings as Putrajaya would not have to fork out money to subsidise nuclear energy.

“But they ignored that. As for now, they ignore that. That’s my first argument why I’m against nuclear, because they have the options, they ignore that,” said Zaini, now an energy management consultant in the private sector.

Zaini, who was not listed as a speaker but was invited to address the crowd, said there was a need to be “realistic”, however, and that he expects nuclear plants will eventually be introduced in a few more decades to meet power demands.

His arguments echoed the stand of Prof G. Lalchand, a speaker at the same forum.

Lalchand, a former Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) staff, told the crowd that he was not anti-nuclear, but he believes that nuclear plants should only be a last resort in another decade.

“We do not need nuclear before 2025, in the meantime, the chances are there for energy efficiency to drop the demand from consumers to the same as the nuclear power can generate,” said Lalchand, who is both an engineer and an academic, adding that it would be cheaper

Nodding to major disasters involving nuclear power plants such as the US’s Three Mile Island’s 1979 accident, Ukraine’s Chernobyl 1986 accident, Japan’s Fukushima 2011 incident, Lalchand said that such accidents had always prompted the raising of safety standards.

“That’s why I said it should be as late as possible to get more safe,” he said, when explaining that a delay in Malaysia’s rolling out of nuclear power plants would enable the use of newer and safer technology.

Until then, Lalchand pushed for energy efficiency ― where users maximise the work done through the energy used ― to save costs and avert the need to build new power plants.

During the forum, another panellist, Datuk Dr Ronald McCoy spoke about the hidden costs in using nuclear technology to generate electricity, citing studies on how the number of cancer-related deaths had risen among those living near nuclear power plants.

According to McCoy, the hidden costs include the maintenance of nuclear power plants, and the disposal of radioactive waste, as well as the decommissioning of plants.

The forum which also featured activist Prof Dr Tan Ka Kheng was held in conjunction with the launch last night of anti-nuclear grassroots movement Anak Malaysia Anti Nuklear (Aman), which is chaired by McCoy.

Aman, which is urging the government to scrap its plans in the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) to build nuclear plants, has listed seven reasons for its objection.

Among the reasons given were safety concerns, fears of Malaysia being dependent on other countries for expertise and supply of nuclear materials for the plants, adequate power supply currently, as well as slower growth in new nuclear plants with countries tapering off the use of such power-generating methods.

As early as December 2010, the government was reported to be planning to build the country’s first ever nuclear power plants, with reports later saying that seven locations in Malaysia had been identified as the possible sites for two nuclear plants.

Initially slated for completion in 2021 and 2022, the plan was later postponed last year as the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown remained fresh in the public’s minds.

In July this year, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mah Siew Keong said the government will carry out studies to determine the feasibility of building a nuclear plant within the next 10 years, promising to “make everything transparent” and keep the public informed.

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Putrajaya snubbed cheaper energy savings scheme for nuclear plans, forum told