The United States will join the multi-nation mission to find missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, as Indonesian authorities say items resembling an emergency slide and a plane door have been seen in the expanded search area in the Java Sea.
Australia, Malaysia and Singapore have already joined the Indonesia-led search, which comprises 15 ships and 32 aircraft, as anguished relatives of the 162 passengers and crew awaited news of their loved ones.
“We spotted about 10 big objects and many more small white-coloured objects which we could not photograph,” Indonesian air force official Agus Dwi Putranto told a press conference.
“The position is 10 kilometres from the location the plane was last captured by radar,” he said.
He displayed 10 photos of objects resembling a plane door, emergency slide and a square box-like object.
An AFP news agency photographer on the same flight that spotted the debris said he had seen objects in the sea resembling a life raft, life jackets and long orange tubes.
Soelistyo, head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, told local television the search area between the islands of Sumatra and Borneo would be expanded.
Authorities would also begin scouring islands in the area as well as land on Indonesia’s side of Borneo. So far the focus of the search has been the Java Sea.
The air force said authorities would investigate an oil spill sighted on Monday, reportedly spotted by crews on a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) plane.
The US military said the USS Sampson, a guided missile destroyer, would be on the scene later on Tuesday.
US State Department spokesman Jeffrey Rathke earlier said Jakarta had asked the US to assist the search.
“We are reviewing that request to find out how best we can meet Indonesia’s request for assistance,” he said.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the aid could include “some air, surface and sub-surface detection capabilities”.
“We stand ready to assist in any way possible,” he added.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Tuesday Australia was sending another two air force planes to join the search in an area west of the island of Kalimantan.
An RAAF P3-Orion joined the Indonesian-led search on Monday.
In a statement on its website, China’s Defence Ministry said it had sent a warship to the South China Sea and planes “have begun preparatory work” for search operations.
Indonesian transport minister Ignasius Jonan said the sea there was only 50 to 100 metres deep, which would be a help in finding the plane. Ships could hunt around the clock, but aircraft were expected to suspend operations at dusk.