Stating that the search operation for the missing aircraft AN-32 is still on, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) on Monday said there have been no signs of debris or survivors. “This is the fourth day of search operations conducted by the Coast Guard, IAF and the Indian Navy. When the first message was received about the aircraft, the first thing which was done by Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre was to issue a ISN, i.e. International Safety Net alert which all the merchant vessels which were passing through the area are alerted about the loss of aircraft at that moment,” Rajan Bargotra, IG, Coast Guard, told the media here. He said the aircrafts were launched by respective services to carry out a linear search initially along the aerial track from Chennai to Port Blair. “Side by side, the search was also launched close to the datum position, which by now is known to all of you…its about 150 nautical miles away from Chennai in the east-ward direction,” he added. Bargotra said once the search was done close to the datum position (real position) and there was no trace of debris or survivors, the search was expanded based on the surface drift which was predominating that area. “For the last four days the search area has been extended gradually.
As far as today is concerned there are surface vessels which are carrying out the search over an area which is expanded from 120/120 nautical miles. Similarly, the aerial search is being done over an area which is 200/300 nautical miles. The surface search area is almost about 14,400 square nautical miles and the aerial search area is almost about 60,000 square nautical miles. It’s a huge search area,” he added. Bargotra further said the search area is planned everyday taking the drift pattern into consideration, which is given to them by the Coast Guard and Naval ships available in the area. “As of now, at sea we have 13 naval vessels and two coast guard ships which are deployed from the east coast in addition to the assets which have been deployed from Port Blair. Also for last three days, there have been 12 air sorties which have been undertaken by the aircrafts deployed by Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard,” he added. He said Fleet Commander, East Fleet, who is himself on board, is coordinating the large number of assets available. “All the emission assets, which have been given to us by the Air Force, Navy and also our own assets of Coast Guards are being coordinated.
Presently, the search is continuing in the same area. We would keep revising the search area and continue with our operation. We have taken help from the government departments like ISRO as well as INCOIS, NIOT and INMCC. Whatever best can be done is being done by all these agencies. We will continue this endeavor,” he added. Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, earlier today said in New Delhi that all the family members of the 29 people onboard the aircraft have been kept in loop regarding the operations, asserting that the search was ongoing. Admiral Lanba said that there was a coordinated search going on between the Indian Navy, the IAF and the coast guard. “There are a total of 17 ships, 13 from the Navy and four from the Coast Guard including 17 to 18 aircrafts carrying out a coordinated search. Search areas have been designated. Over 250 hours of aircraft sorties have been flown,” he said.
The Admiral further said that they have received image inputs from satellite images plus also the sensors of the aircraft, adding that all leads have been followed. Meanwhile, the search operation for the missing aircraft, code named “Operation Talash,” continues for the fourth day today in the Bay of Bengal. An international safety network has been activated to alert the merchant ships passing by the zone of search operation to look out for any survivors or the debris. The Andaman and Nicobar Command of the defence forces are keeping a watch for it even beyond the search zone. As part of the procedure, a formal complaint about the missing aircraft has been registered with the Selaiyur police station in Chennai by the Air Force authorities. India’s largest ever search operation over the sea to trace the missing twin-engined AN32 aircraft is getting imageries of the search area from the ISRO through its radar imaging satellite RISAT. The Indian Mission Control Centre of the space agency responsible for Satellite Aided Search and Rescue in the region is supplementing the Operation Talash by offering its services. However, no clues on the whereabouts of the aircraft are yet known and the sharp look out continue unabated.