The first team for search and rescue operation reached the AN-32 transport aircraft crash site in Arunachal Pradesh on Wednesday with the mandate to look for possible survivors, remains and secure them besides locate the black box which will enable the IAF to establish the cause of mishap.
There were 13 passengers on board the ill-fated plane which took off from Jorhat, Assam for Mechuka advanced landing ground in Arunachal Pradesh and went missing on June 3. The wreckage was spotted on Tuesday.
Having reached the wreckage site, the team will camp for the night and begin the salvage operation on Thursday as it could not get close to the site on Wednesday due to inclement weather and terrain.
This unit is part of the 15-member group comprising IAF, Army and civilian mountaineers. They were airdropped near the crash site on Wednesday morning at two different locations. The debris is lying on a steep ridge at a height of 12,000 feet and is posing a challenge for the search teams to even reach due to dense forests and rugged mountainous terrain.
While the first team of expert mountaineers have now fashioned a makeshift dirt track in the thick jungles by hacking foliage, the ground troops including Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police(ITBP) and the local police already patrolling the area will come through the track laid down by the mountaineers, sources said here on Wednesday.
They also said the unit at the crash site is finding it difficult to relay information to the operations room due to erratic signal. However, the personnel manage to convey they will camp there for the night and resume their task on Thursday.
The crash site is 16 kms north of Lipo and north-east of Tato near Mechuka and the wreckage was located by MI-17 helicopters on Tuesday after eight days of relentless and massive search and rescue operation.
“A team comprising personnel from IAF, Army and civil mountaineers have been airlifted to a location close to the crash site,” a spokesperson of the IAF said. It has nine mountaineers of IAF, four of Army and two civilian mountaineers.
The base for the search-and-rescue operation is at Kayiang in West Siang district with a doctor and other emergency services deployed there. The IAF base hospital at Jorhat is also ready to cater to medical emergencies.
The air dropping of the mountaineering team in a M1-17 and two advanced light helicopters began at 6.30 am, sources said adding local mountaineers who sighted the crash site were also called to help by the Siang district administration. Mechuka advanced landing ground is in Siang district and the airstrip is 30 kms from Line of Actual Control(LAC) facing China as the crow flies.
The IAF spokesperson said Eastern Command chief Air Marshal R D Mathur complimented the search team for their relentless effort spanning eight days.
Mathur also thanked Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Chief Secretary Satya Gopa for extending unflinching support to the IAF towards locating the missing An-32.