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Charlie Campbell The Indonesian official leading search operations believes Flight QZ 8501 has sunk. The search for AirAsia Flight QZ 8501 has resumed, a day after the plane disappeared en route from Indonesia to Singapore with 162 people on board. But the official in charge of efforts has admitted it likely lies "at the bottom of the sea."

On Sunday, search vessels and aircraft were not able to spot any sign of the Airbus A320-200, which lost contact with air-traffic control over the Java Sea 42 minutes after departing Surabaya, Indonesia, at 5.35 am local time.

"Based on the coordinates given to us and evaluation that the estimated crash position is in the sea, the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea," Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo told a press conference Monday morning.

Records show Captain Iriyanto, who like many Indonesians only uses one name, had requested to ascend from 32,000 ft. to 38,000 ft. to avoid cloud, but this was denied. Meteorologists say cloud tops may have reached over 50,000 ft., and satellite imagery shows a huge storm that quickly disappeared, indicating a massive amount of rainfall in a short period.

Although nothing has been confirmed, experts believe that the plane may have come down because of adverse weather.

"I'm very devastated by what's happened," AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes told reporters in Surabaya late Sunday. "It's unbelievable. But we don't know what happened yet. Our concern right now is for the relatives and the next of kin — nothing is more important for us."

In a statement posted to his Facebook page on Sunday evening, Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged all those looking for the missing plane to "keep up the hard work." He added: "I am also praying to God for the safety of the passengers of AirAsia Flight QZ 8501."

Indonesia is providing 12 ships, three helicopters and five military aircraft for the search efforts, while Malaysia has offered a C-130 plane and three ships. Singapore has dispatched a C-130 and Australia is also providing aerial assistance. India has put ships on standby.

Sunday's search was hampered by heavy rain and poor visibility, but the skies cleared overnight, the bright sun burning off sea fog, and raising hopes that some wreckage may be spotted Monday.

The waters of the Java Sea, a major shipping route, are comparatively shallow, and pinpointing the missing jetliner's location should, in theory, be straightforward, given that its last known position was just one third into a 2½-hour flight. Sonar pings from the black box would likely be audible, and divers could even reach the seabed without the use of submersibles.

The loss of QZ8501 is the third major aviation disaster this year with Malaysia links, after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March and the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 37 over Ukraine in July. AirAsia Indonesia, which operated QZ8501, is 49% owned by the Malaysia-based AirAsia. - online

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