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Search For AirAsia Flight Suspended

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A man is silhouetted against an electronic sign board at the Changi International Airport. AP Photo. A man is silhouetted against an electronic sign board at the Changi International Airport. AP Photo.

An astonishingly tragic year for air travel in Southeast Asia has turned worse, with an AirAsia plane carrying 162 people disappearing Sunday over stormy Indonesian waters.

There's been no word on AirAsia Flight 8501's fate despite several hours of searching by air and sea.

The plane vanished in airspace possibly thick with dense storm clouds, strong winds and lightning on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. Searchers have had to fight against heavy rain.

At the Surabaya airport, shocked family members have been poring over the plane's manifest, crying and embracing when they learned the news. Nearly all the passengers and crew are Indonesians, who are frequent visitors to Singapore, particularly on holidays.

The last communication between the pilot and air traffic control was at 6:13 a.m. (2313 GMT Saturday), when the pilot "asked to avoid clouds by turning left and going higher to 34,000 feet (10,360 meters)." It was last seen on radar at 6:16 a.m., and a minute later was no longer there, Djoko Murjatmodjo, Indonesia's acting director general of transportation, told reporters.

AirAsia is based in Malaysia. The plane's loss comes on top of the still-unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July over Ukraine.

Indonesia's search and rescue agency says the air search is to resume Monday morning, while some ships continue to comb the area overnight.

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