A team of 15 mountaineers on its way to the wreckage of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) An-32 aircraft, which went missing with 13 persons on board, could not reach the crash site on Wednesday.
The wreckage was spotted on Tuesday on a hill slope in a remote location close to the China border in Arunachal Pradesh. “They are yet to reach the crash site due to inclement weather and terrain. Team will be camping overnight due to difficult terrain and weather, and will close in to the crash site tomorrow,” said IAF PRO Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh.
Earlier in the day, the team members — comprising nine persons from the IAF mountaineering team, four from the Army, and two civilian mountaineers — were dropped close to the crash site by Mi17 and ALH helicopters. From there, they had to trek to the crash site. The civilian mountaineers are Taka Tamut and Kison Tekseng, who scaled Mount Everest in 2018.
The An-32 took off from Assam’s Jorhat on June 3 for the Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground in Shi Yomi district. It lost contact with the ground staff half-an-hour after take-off.
On Tuesday, IAF had said a Mi-17 helicopter on the search operation spotted the wreckage 16 km north of Lipo, northeast of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12,000 ft. The location lies near the border of Siang and Shi Yomi districts.
Mito Dirchi, Deputy Commissioner of Shi Yomi, told The Indian Express, “To access the location where the wreckage has been spotted is very difficult. It is mountainous, densely forested and dotted with deep gorges. There are no roads and no communication. There is reported presence of tigers and bears. If someone has to hike to the wreckage from the base of the mountains, it would not be possible in less than seven days.”
Dirchi said it is still not clear if the location would fall in Siang or Shi Yomi, but the administration of both districts were providing support to the team. Since the aircraft went missing, various agencies, including the Army, ITBP, Navy, ISRO, state police and district administrations came together to search for it. Satellite photography was also used.
Siang DC Rajeev Tatuk, who could not be reached over phone on Wednesday, wrote in a report on the search operation dated June 11, that the area where the wreckage was detected, Payum circle, is “bereft of any road connectivity”. Tatuk added that the search was called off on Tuesday afternoon and its cost is estimated to be around Rs 4 lakh.
Radhe Lal, whose son Ashish Tanwar (29) was flying the AN-32 aircraft, told The Indian Express over the phone that the family has not received updates about any development after the wreckage was spotted.
“We are hoping for the best,” said Lal. Ashish’s wife Sandhya was manning the Air Traffic Control at Jorhat on June 3 when the AN-32 took off.
Air Marshal R D Mathur, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Air Command, has complimented the search team and thanked the state administration for extending “unflinching support to the IAF”.
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