A day after the wreckage of an An-32 aircraft that went missing with 13 on board last week was found in a remote region of Arunachal Pradesh, a team comprising Air Force and Army personnel, and mountaineers were flown to the site by Indian Air Force helicopters.
Operations started on Wednesday morning at around 6.30 am to search for bodies, or any possible survivors. Fifteen mountaineers -- nine from the Air Force, four from the Army and two civilians -- have been deployed at the scene of the accident. While some have reached the crash site, others are scouring the surroundings woods.
According to news agency ANI, the Air Force also successfully dropped 8-10 personnel near the crash site in two helicopter sorties. A video shot from a helicopter in the region shows low-lying clouds and narrow valleys, highlighting the challenges faced by the rescue teams in the tough terrain.
The wreckage was spotted by a Mi-17 helicopter yesterday, at a height of 12,000 feet.
This morning, a Mi-17 chopper faced problems as it tried to land near the crash site.
Local mountaineers who also sighted the crash site have also been roped in by the Siang District administration in the rescue operation.
The base of the operation has been set up at Kayiang in West Siang, said an official of the Arunachal Pradesh government. A doctor and other emergency services have been positioned there and a back-up team is also on stand-by.
Indian Air Force sources told NDTV the base hospital at Jorhat was also ready for medical emergencies.
The An-32 went missing on June 3. It was flying from Jorhat in Assam to a remote military landing strip in Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh when it vanished from the radar around 1 pm.
IAF C-130J transport aircraft, Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, NAVY P8-I search aircraft and a fleet of IAF and Army helicopters had searched the plane for a week before parts of it were finally spotted yesterday. ISRO satellites and unmanned drones were also involved in the search operations. The Air Force used two Mi-17s and an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), the P8i -- a long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft from Tamil Nadu - for the search.
Teams from the Army, Navy and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) troops, supported by night-time sensors, worked through the night amid challenges like thick forests, inhospitable terrain and poor weather. Family members of the crew are waiting at Jorhat in Assam.
Air Marshal RD Mathur, Air Officer Commanding-in-chief of the Eastern Air Command, thanked the search team for their "untiring efforts" at trying to locate the missing aircraft over the last eight days. He also expressed his gratitude for the state administration led by Chief Minister Pema Khandu for extending his "unflinching support".
"The proud and highly patriotic people of the state have worked tirelessly to help the IAF for a national cause," news agency PTI quoted him as saying.
The An-32 is a Soviet-designed twin engine turboprop transport aircraft has been used extensively by the Indian Air Force for over four decades. The region it was flying over at the time of the crash is mountainous and heavily forested, believed to be one of the world's most inhospitable for air travel.
(With inputs from Agencies)