DAWEI, Myanmar – Grieving relatives gathered Friday at a cremation ceremony for victims of the crash of a Myanmar military plane that was carrying 122 people when it plunged into the Andaman Sea.
Navy ships and fishing boats, meanwhile, navigated high waves in bad weather to search for more bodies and debris off Myanmar's southeastern coast, where the four-engine Chinese-made Y-8 turboprop crashed Wednesday.
Waves were 2.5 meters (more than 8 feet) high in the Andaman Sea, but eight navy ships and 20 fishing boats were participating in the search, the military commander in chief's office said. The fishermen were using their nets to search in the water and the navy ships were using sonar.
As of Thursday night, 31 bodies had been recovered — 21 women, two men and eight children. There were 15 children on the flight, which was carrying military officers and their families from bases in the south to Myanmar's main city, Yangon.
The cause of the accident is still unknown. It had been raining, but not heavily, when the flight went down, the military said.
It was not clear if any more bodies were recovered Friday in the rough weather conditions. At the beach at San Hlan village, where fisherman brought in bodies Thursday to be sent by truck to a morgue, soldiers tasked with the recovery took shelter Friday in villagers' homes from the heavy tropical downpour.
Five Buddhist monks said prayers for the dead at the Dawei cemetery where cremations were held for the 15 bodies that have been identified.
Schoolteacher Khine Zar Win sobbed as she spoke of her 30-year-old brother Yazar Win, who was traveling on the plane with his wife and 2 ½-year-old son. They lived elsewhere and had just paid a visit to her family, which got together infrequently. Only the child's body has been recovered so far.
"We haven't seen them for a while and that's why we asked his family to come visit us here," she said.
"My brother was the youngest in the family and he was the only son. He was loved so much in the family. Now my mother is hospitalized because of this news. My father fainted when he heard the news. It is a big loss for us. We loved him and his family very much."
The Y-8 plane was delivered to Myanmar in March last year and since had logged 809 flying hours. The pilot and co-pilot both had more than 3,100 hours of flying experience and the plane was carrying about 2.4 tons of cargo, according to the military Facebook page that has been the main source of official information about the crash.