An AirAsia plane bound for Singapore carrying 162 people went missing Sunday morning, various reports said.
Flight QZ8501, which departed from Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java at 5:20 in the morning, lost contact in Indonesian airspace about an hour after it took off.
“AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 07:24hrs this morning,” the official AirAsia statement on its Facebook page read.
According to reports, the plane was expected to arrive in Singapore at 8:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) but lost contact with air traffic controllers somewhere over the Java Sea between Tanjung Pandan on Belitung island and Pontianak, on Indonesia’s part of Kalimantan island.
Shortly before losing contact, the plane asked permission from Jakarta air traffic control to deviate from its flight plan due to bad weather.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, AirAsia said the pilots requested “deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control.”
“We don’t dare to presume what has happened except that it has lost contact,” Djoko Murjatmodjo, Indonesia’s acting director general of transportation, said in a press conference.
Search and locate efforts were launched but had to be suspended for the night. According to Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, rescuers will resume operation Monday morning.
Of the 162 people on board the Airbus A320-200, 155 were passengers while seven were crew members.
Majority of the people on board were Indonesian. Six foreigner passengers were also aboard the plane – three South Koreans and one passenger each from Singapore, Malaysia and the U.K. Sixteen children, 138 adults, and one infant were listed on the flight’s manifest.
The plane’s disappearance is the third major disaster for Malaysian aviation this year.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 with 239 people on board vanished without a trace in March while MH 37, another Malaysia Airlines plane, went down in July in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 aboard. The plane was allegedly shot down by pro-Russian separatists.
AirAsia is a Malaysia-based company.