Searchers using sonar equipment have located wreckage from AirAsia Flight QZ8501 at the bottom of the Java Sea, an Indonesian search and rescue official said.

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At the moment, they still do not know if it is in one piece or broken up, the official was quoted as saying by a private news channel.

Nearly three days after the Airbus A320-200 went off the radar, its debris was found yesterday in the Karimata Strait near Pangkalanbun, Central Kalimantan.

Divers were to be deployed to search for bodies and for the plane's "black box" flight recorders but officials said heavy rain, strong winds and waves of up to 3 metres had forced them to suspend the operation.

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At least seven bodies have been retrieved from the sea till now. Three bodies, two female and one male, were recovered yesterday while four more were pulled out today.

One of the bodies pulled out today was dressed in air stewardess uniform, said Bambang Soelistyo, chief of Indonesia's search and rescue agency Basarnas.

Many bodies were seen floating in the sea by the rescuers and efforts were being made to retrieve them, officials said.

"We are in a wait and see. Weather is bad currently. High tides and heavy rains. Every element is now in their position ready to make a move when weather improves," Soelistyo said.

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"As soon as the weather is clear, the bodies will be brought to Pangkalan Bun," he said.

Indonesian officials yesterday confirmed that remains and debris found in the waters off Borneo are from the AirAsia plane that took off from Surabaya for Singapore.

Relatives of the 162 people on board the ill-fated plane hugged each other and burst into tears yesterday as they watched television footage of bodies floating in the sea.

The plane was carrying 155 passengers one British, one Malaysian, one Singaporean, three South Koreans, 149 Indonesians and seven crew members -- six Indonesians and a French co-pilot.

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Seventeen of the passengers were children. There were no Indian nationals on board. The mystery still remains over why the plane lost contact with air traffic control and what happened afterwards.

Families of people aboard AirAsia plane have been briefed by officials that sonar technology has "spotted the plane on sea floor," a relative of some of the passengers informed.

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The plane, which did not issue a distress signal, disappeared after its pilot failed to get permission to fly higher to avoid bad weather because of heavy air traffic.

It was travelling at 32,000 feet (9,753 metres) and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet. When air traffic controllers granted permission for a rise to 34,000 feet a few minutes later, they received no response from the aircraft.

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Online discussion among pilots has centred on unconfirmed secondary radar data from Malaysia that suggested the aircraft was climbing at a speed of 353 knots, about 100 knots too slow, and that it might have stalled.

Investigators are focusing initially on whether the crew took too long to request permission to climb, or could have ascended on their own initiative earlier, said a source close to the inquiry, adding that poor weather could have played a part as well.

A Qantas pilot with 25 years of experience flying in the region said the discovery of the debris field relatively close to the last known radar plot of the plane pointed to an aerodynamic stall, most likely due to bad weather. One possibility is that the plane's instruments iced up in a tropical thunderstorm, giving the pilots inaccurate readings.

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