[ Nellie N Manpoong ]
ITANAGAR, Jun 17: Aerial operations to retrieve the bodies of the 13 personnel who were on board the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) An-32 aircraft have been put on hold for the past two days due to incessant rain in the area.
“Weather continues to be marginal. Helicopters are ready but unable to take off due to rains and very low clouds at site,” the defence PRO said.
There are also reports that the retrieved black box of the An-32 was damaged, and that only seven bodies have been spotted at the crash site as of now. However, defence authorities did not clarify the claims.
Speaking to this daily, Siang Deputy Commissioner Rajeev Takuk said the weather has been causing severe difficulties to the rescue team with one of the civilian mountaineers also returning on 14 June after reporting ill.
On 11 June, nine mountaineers from the IAF, four from the Army and two civilian experts had been air-dropped near the crash site.
Reportedly, the Shi Yomi district administration is also going to send local guides from Hirong and Lungte villages in Tato circle to assist the ground team of the IAF and the Army in retrieving the bodies.
Informing that aerial retrieval could take time due to the weather conditions, Takuk said the Siang administration has also arranged for locals to join the rescue operation, and they are being kept on standby.
“Hirong is closer to the crash site and will take the locals about a day to reach. It will take people nearly four days to reach the site from the Siang side, so we have kept them on standby,” the DC said.
Reportedly, one of the local hunters who had been engaged in the search operation is yet to return. The others have reported back to the Siang administration.
On 3 June, the IAF’s An-32 aircraft with 13 personnel on board crashed into the mountains located between Shi Yomi and Siang districts.
After eight days of extensive aerial and ground search operations by the IAF, the Army, the local administrations and villagers, the aircraft was located on 11 June near Tato circle, at an approximate elevation of 12000 ft, by an IAF Mi-17 helicopter.
On 12 June, 15 expert mountaineers from the IAF, the Army and civilians were air-dropped near the crash site. An eight-member team reached the site on 13 June and reportedly found no survivors.
The 13 air warriors were: Wing Commander GM Charles, Squadron Leader H Vinod, Flight Lieutenants R Thapa, A Tanwar, S Mohanty and MK Garg, Warrant Officer KK Mishra, Sergeant Anoop Kumar, Corporal Sherin, Leading Air Craftsmen SK Singh and Pankaj, and non-combatants (E) Putali and Rajesh Kumar.