GUWAHATI: A day after the wreckage of missing AN-32 transport aircraft was spotted in Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, Indian Air Force (IAF) and Army are trying to reach the crash site.
A team, comprising personnel from IAF and Army besides 15 mountaineers, was airlifted to a location close to the site on Wednesday.
“The induction of 15 mountaineers from helicopters is complete. They are yet to reach the crash site due to inclement weather and terrain. The team will be camping overnight due to difficult terrain and weather and will try to reach the crash site tomorrow (Thursday),” IAF’s Shillong-based spokesman Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said. He further added that Mi17s and ALH helicopters from the Army were being used in the mission.
The aircraft, which was flying to Mechuka near the China border in Shi Yomi district of Arunachal with 13 IAF personnel on board, was reported missing 33 minutes since it took off from IAF’s base in Assam’s Jorhat district on June 3.
Siang Deputy Commissioner (District Magistrate), Rajeev Takuk, said the crash site is a treacherous area.
“The aerial distance between the crash site and Siang’s last village, which is Gate, is about 12-13 km. It is a treacherous area and travelling on foot will take a minimum of four days from the nearest human settlement,” Takuk said.
He said as there was no telecommunication connectivity in the area, it was not immediately known if the persons airlifted had been dropped at the site.
He said two choppers had flown from the advanced landing ground (ALG) in Aalo of West Siang district. This ALG is closer to the crash site which is located around 40 km away as the crow flies, he said.
“There is a small helipad at Gaseng, which is the next village to Gate in Siang district. Our mountaineers have been working on foot for three days in Gaseng. Yesterday (Tuesday), two of them were airlifted by IAF and taken near the crash site. Today, I think all of them will be dropped,” Takuk said.
He said ten people were likely to be dropped near the crash site initially. They are a mix of locals and personnel of IAF and Army, he added.
Air Marshal RD Mathur, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Air Command, has complimented the search team for its relentless effort spanning eight days.
He also appreciated the state administration which, under the personal supervision of Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Chief Secretary Satya Gopal, extended unflinching support to IAF towards locating the missing aircraft.