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Wreckage of missing AN-32 aircraft found

ITANAGAR, JUN 11:

The wreckage of the AN-32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was spotted on Tuesday in a heavily forested mountainous terrain, eight days after it went missing with 13 people on board after taking off from Assam's Jorhat.

The IAF said efforts are on to establish the status of occupants amid fears that chances of any survivor in the one of worst accidents involving a military platform in recent years may be very bleak.

"The wreckage of the aircraft was spotted today 16 kms North of Lipo, North East of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12,000 feet by an IAF Mi-17 helicopter undertaking search in the expanded search zone," the IAF said in a statement.

"Efforts are now continuing to establish the status of occupants and establish survivors," it said.

An IAF official said after identifying the wreckage of the AN 32, a Cheetah helicopter and an ALH chopper reached the crash site but could not land due to high elevation and dense forest.

"However, nearest landing site has been identified and the rescue operation by helicopters will commence tomorrow early morning. Ground forces will continue to reach the crash site during the night," he said.

Another official said the IAF will send its special commandos 'Garud' to the crash site and carry out an exercise to look for possible survivors.

Deputy Commissioner of Siang district Rajeev Takuk said the wreckage of the aircraft was spotted near Pari hills which is close to Gatte village under Payum circle in Arunachal Pradesh.

"The wreckage was spotted near Pari hills, a few kilometres from Gatte village. However, the area is inaccessible as there is no road communication," Takuk informed.

"The area has tough topography and terrain and retrieving of bodies may take some time. The Indian Army and the local Arunachal Scouts are ready to move towards the spot," Gijum Tali, a state government official said.

"Arunachal Pradesh Energy Development Agency (APEDA) Deputy Director Somar Potom, who has been deputed by the West Siang District administration to be part of the search operation, said that though the wreckage site has been spotted, he along with IAF officers have left for a close, final survey," Tali added.

Tali said the aircraft which lost control at Payum after taking off from Jorhat appeared to have turned left towards Mechuka from the Gasheng village before losing control near Gatte.

"Our next effort is to get to the wreckage site to establish the status of the occupants and search for the black box and CVR of the ill-fated aircraft with tail number K-2752," IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh informed.

"Mountaineering teams of the IAF and the Army are being formed. They will be inducted tomorrow by means of helicopters to look for survivors and other things," Singh said, adding that no exercise was taking place now to reach the crash site by road.

The Russian-origin AN-32 aircraft was going from Jorhat in Assam to Menchuka advanced landing ground near the border with China on June 3 when it lost contact with ground staff at 1 pm, within 33 minutes of taking off.

The IAF launched a massive operation after the aircraft went missing but the search was badly hit due to poor weather conditions.

The assets deployed for the operation included Sukhoi-30 aircraft in addition to a fleet of C-130J and AN-32 planes and Mi-17 and ALH helicopters. The ground forces included troops from the Army, Indo Tibetan Border Police and state police.

The Indian Navy's P-8I aircraft was also deployed earlier this week as it has electro-optical and infra-red sensors which could be helpful in the search operation.

ISRO's Cartosat and RISAT satellites were also used to take images of the area around Menchuka.

The IAF has been regularly updating the families of all those who were on board the AN-32 about the rescue operation. (Agencies inputs)

 

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