With a week gone without a trace of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane, the search for flight MH370 has expanded to include the Bay of Bengal waters close to the Chennai coastline, the Defence Ministry said on Friday. However, the Indian Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard warships, aircraft and helicopters continued to scour the South Andaman Sea.
According to Col Harmeet Singh, Public Relations Officer of Andaman Nicobar Command, two Coast Guard ships on routine surveillance were diverted to search along east coast of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Coast Guard ships will join two naval ships and two Dornier aircraft in the search operation codenamed “Search Light” by Indian forces.
Areas were yet to be designated for searches by P-8I and C-130 aircraft, parked aboard INS Utkrosh, Port Blair’s Naval Airbase. An Mi-8 helicopter of the Indian Air Force from Car Nicobar Island also searched the seas around Nancowry Group of Islands. The searches, however, yielded no results.
The Beijing-bound flight, with five Indians and one Indian-origin Canadian among 239 onboard, vanished from the radar while flying over South China Sea within a few hours of taking off from Kuala Lumpur last Friday.
Investigators, over the last one week, have exhausted all possible theories from a terror strike and hijack to crash following a snag.
The Malaysian authorities had initially launched the search in the South China Sea, but it provided no results. Later, they shifted the search to the Gulf of Thailand and South Andaman Sea. Indian warships, military aircraft and helicopters had been pressed into the search operations in the South Andaman Sea on Thursday, following a request from the Malaysian authorities. On Friday, two Indian warships - INS Saryu and INS Kumbhir - carried out sweeps at the search area designated for it in south east Andaman Sea by the Malaysian authorities. “INS Kesari replaced INS Kumbhir around 1500 hours on Friday for the search, as it also has a helicopter on board. In addition, two Coast Guard vessels are also carrying out search along the (Andaman) coastline,” Indian authorities said.
Delhi-based Integrated Defence Staff headquarters is coordinating the search efforts by the armed forces, while the Joint Operations Room has been activated to monitor the progress of the operations.
Air Marshal P K Roy, the Commander-in-Chief of the Port Blair-based Andaman and Nicobar Command as the Overall Force Commander of the Indian search efforts, is monitoring the operations on the ground from the Maritime Operations Centre at Port Blair.