CHENNAI: A month has passed and even the signal from sonar locating beacon of the missing aircraft may be slowly fading out. But, Indian Coast Guard is still nursing hopes to locate the lost Dornier as well as the three crew members under the sea.
Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, Inspector General SP Sharma, Commander, Indian Coast Guard (East), defended the search operation, being carried out about 29km from the sprawling Pichavaram mangroves, saying even international agencies in Japan, Australia, Canada and the United States have corroborated that the search operation is on the right direction.
He ruled out the possibility of the aircraft being on the land. “It has gone down in the sea,” he confirmed while maintaining that the Coast Guard search operations were on the right track.
“We sought technical consultation from Japan, Australia, Canada and the US. They gave us their inputs which were similar to the probable location where the search is being conducted for the missing aircraft,” said Sharma.
The search is being renewed with full intensity again with the focus on the depth between 500 metres to 3,000 metres. This followed concurrence with oceanographic scientists.
Talking about the bottom topography of the probable site, he said it is about 800 metres with shallow continental shelf to the west and steep continental slope towards the east. The bottom slope is seen to be steep beyond 80.2 degree East. The sedimentation at the bottom seems to be soft sand and to the east silty sand, he explained. According to him, the gradient is too steep, hampering the signals from the aircraft. The earlier search carried out by Reliance MSV Olympic Canyon confirmed reception of signal from sonar locating beacon five times. But, beyond that there was no progress.
Highlighting the challenges involved in underwater search, he said it had taken two years to locate the black box of Air France which went into the water on 2009.
“MSV Olympic Canyon along with research vessel Ex Niot will commence the search operations soon. The Reliance vessel from Kakinada is expected to arrive at the search site by 2pm on Thursday,” he said.
The ongoing search operation ‘Operation Talash’ involves 12 agencies. These include Indian Coast guard, Indian Navy, Indian Air force, Coastal Security Group, National Institute of Oceanographic Technology, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, National Remote Sensing Centre, Naval Physical Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL), Naval Operations Data Processing and Analysis Centre (NODPAC), Geological Survey of India, Reliance Industries Limited and private volunteers comprising the fishing community.
Area Spread: 30,600 sq mt
Ships (Indian coast guard/ Indian navy): 25
Total Sip Dys: 293
Aircraft (Coastguard/ Indian Navy/ IAF) : 5
Flying hours: 241
Coastal Security Group Boats: 14
Total hours: 378
Manpower: 2,000 personnel