VISAKHAPATNAM: WITH an anonymous phone call tipping off the Suryalanka air force station in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh on Saturday evening that local people had heard a loud explosion in the Narsipatnam forest on July 22, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department have jointly launched a search in that area for the IAF AN-32 aircraft that went missing after takeoff from Chennai on July 22.
The area being searched is about 800 km from Chennai from where the aircraft with 29 people aboard took off for Port Blair and went missing over the Bay of Bengal on July 22.
According to Divisional forest officer G Shekhar Babu, Flight Lieutenant KS Rao of the Suryalanka air force station alerted him on Saturday evening, saying that they had received a phone call and that some villagers of Bakuluru and Yerradibbalu had heard a loud explosion on July 22 which could be the missing aircraft AN-32.
The IAF sought cooperation of the forest officials to conduct a survey in the forest nearby the villages. “As many as 10 forest officials have been deployed to assist the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the search operation which is being carried out in the forests abutting Bakuluru and Yerradibbalu villages in Sarugudu mandal,” Shekhar Babu said, adding that the IAF conducted an aerial survey while forest officials, in two teams, enquired about the incident in the villages.
“As of now, no villagers have revealed that they witnessed any crash. However, some forest officials are still there to find out if any person has any clue about the aircraft,” he told Express, adding that IAF officials had also no clue as to who called them.
“In view of the Maoist Martyrs’ Week, the police department has conducted an aerial survey.”
“It can’t be ruled out that some people might have seen the helicopters and spread the message that the AN-32 was crashed in the forest.”
“However, nothing is clear as of now.”
“We and IAF do not want to take any chance in this matter,” one of the forest official who participated in the survey said.