Jakarta - A US Navy ship taking part in the search for the wreckage of an AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea last week detected two metal objects on the seabed, Indonesia's rescue chief said.
"USS Fort Worth's sonar system caught the images of two metal objects but it cannot yet be confirmed if they are parts of the aircraft," Bambang Sulistyo said on Tuesday.
Ealier, Indonesian ships had detected four large objects believed to be parts of the Airbus A320-200's fuselage.
Bambang said the weather conditions had improved, but two divers attempting to confirm the findings returned empty handed because of the strong currents.
"Our focus is to retrieve as many bodies as possible and we believe some of the victims are still trapped in the main body of the aircraft," he said.
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It will become more difficult to identify the victims as the bodies reach an advanced state of decomposition in the seawater.
Bambang said two more bodies were found floating in the sea, bringing the confirmed death toll to 39.
Only 16 victims have been so far identified, after the aircraft went down during a flight from Surabaya to Singapore on 28 December with 162 people on board.
Five disaster victim identification experts from the United Arab Emirates and one from South Korea arrived in Surabaya to help identify the victims, East Java police spokesperson Awi Setiono said.
"They will certainly help make identification faster," he said. "We need all the help we can get."
No distress signal
Searchers were also racing against time to find the cockpit voice and flight data recorders, which could shed light on what went wrong with the flight.
The aircraft did not send a distress signal before it disappeared from radar screens.
The Transport Ministry announced on Monday that it had suspended airport officials as part of an investigation into flight schedule violations by AirAsia, and possibly by other airlines.
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The ministry said AirAsia had approval to use the route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but not on Sundays - the day the plane crashed.
Civil aviation chief Djoko Murjatmodjo acknowledged that airport authorities had allowed AirAsia's Sunday flight for almost three months, but said that was because of "a difference in data used by the ministry and airport officials."
He said the ministry's investigation was unrelated to the crash.
Indonesia's Financial Service Authority assured family members of the victims that all the passengers would be entitled to insurance payments despite the controversy over the flight permit.
"We believe the crash has nothing to do with the fact that it flew on a Sunday, so there will be no problems [with insurance claims]," said the authority's executive director, Firdaus Djaelani.
He said each passenger was entitled to at least $100 000.