THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has dispatched three aircraft and a helicopter on a mission to scour the seas for missing men on a request made by the fishermen communities in Tamil Nadu’s Ockhi-battered Kanniyakumari coast.On Wednesday afternoon, three Antonov An-32 aircraft and a Mi-17 helicopter of the IAF took off from Thiruvananthapuram to comb the sea for the missing fishermen. The trio of An-32 - which are twin-engined military transport aircraft of Russian origin - and the helicopter will cover distances ranging between 180 and 200 nautical miles from the Kanniyakumari coast to the Mangaluru coast, a defence spokesperson said.
“The aircraft will fly low over the sea to search for any missing fishermen,” the spokesperson said, adding that the fisherfolk made their request to Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of IAF’s Southern Air Command (SAC) through the Tamil Nadu chief secretary. The mission left the SAC’s Shangumugham air station on Wednesday. According to IAF sources, the mission will continue on Thursday also.
For days now, the IAF has been scouring the seas, along with the Navy and the Coast Guard, for fishermen who went missing after the cyclone struck the southern coasts. Meanwhile, two Coast Guard ships, Vaibhav and Aryaman, left Vizhinjam on Wednesday morning on a four-day mission into the deep sea to continue the search for the fishermen still reported as missing.
Thirty-two fishermen have also boarded the vessels to assist in the search and rescue operation. The ships will cover distances up to 200 nautical miles or beyond if needed. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said on Wednesday that the defence agencies will be asked to continue their search until the last one of the missing men is found.