For Families of QZ8501 Passengers, A New Year Filled With Tears, Anguish

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SURABAYA, Jan 1 – There was no celebration to welcome 2015 in Surabaya, Indonesia last night, as people mourned the crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, the BBC reports. The British broadcaster said hundreds of residents and relatives of those on board the jetliner lit candles and observed a minute’s silence for the victims in a vigil last night. Among those at the vigil were young children. Surabaya’s Mayor Tri Rismaharini tried to offer words of comfort. “Let us pray for the grieving families of those on board the plane. Let us pray this will be the last tragedy for Surabaya,” she said.

New Year’s Eve celebrations in East Java province were cancelled while in Jakarta, people began new year festivities with prayers for the victims. Several other Indonesian cities also have cancelled or scaled down their new year celebrations, BBC reported. Indonesian news portal Detik.com reported that there were no fireworks lighting up the sky when the clock struck midnight in Jakarta and other cities. In Pangkalan Bun, central Kalimantan, where search units were based, the mood was dark and sombre

Onboard warship KRI Banda Aceh, personnel ushered in the new year chatting with each other and drinking coffee, said operations department chief Major Cahyo. He said they needed to rest because they had to get back in the search in the morning. Why does God send big disasters to us at the end of the year? It started with the tsunami, then the earthquake in Yogya, the loss of Adam Air, and more,” he was quoted as saying by Detik.com. Yesterday, Detik.com also reported that some family members of QZ8501 passengers found their luggage removed from their rooms at Hotel Halogen, near the Juanda International Airport in Surabaya.

Their belongings were reportedly moved out because the rooms had been booked in advance for the new year, angering the already upset families, who scolded the hotel and AirAsia staff. “We were told by AirAsia that we could stay here until tomorrow (January 1). But when we reached our rooms, we were shocked to find our things moved out and left by the door,” one family member told Detik.com. AirAsia Indonesia chief executive officer Sunu Widiatmoko had earlier told a press conference that it was a challenge to find hotel rooms near the crisis centre set up at the airport on New Year’s Eve. “The families will remain here (Juanda airport). It is difficult for us to find hotels on New Year’s Eve. We will move them tomorrow,” he reportedly said.

Detik.com said a Halogen Hotel receptionist had claimed that the decision to remove the family members’ belongings was approved by AirAsia, and that AirAsia staff had also helped to move some of the items. Flight QZ8501 was carrying 162 people from Surabaya to Singapore, when it disappeared on Sunday morning. There were 137 adult passengers, 17 children, one infant, two pilots and five crewmembers on the Airbus A320-200. The majority of those on board were Indonesians. Debris from the flight was located in the sea on Tuesday and search teams have begun recovering bodies of passengers and crew.

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