Five days after an Indian Air Force AN-32 aircraft went missing, the Arunachal Pradesh government on Saturday engaged local village headmen in search operations on the ground even as the IAF announced a Rs five lakh reward for any information about the ill-fated plane.
Air Marshal R.D. Mathur, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air Command, has announced a cash reward of Rs five lakh for persons or groups who provide credible information about the lost aircraft.
Finders may contact the Air Force on the following numbers - Landline: 0378-3222164, Mobile: 9436499477 / 9402077267 / 9402132477, an Indian Air Force statement said.
The administration of Siang district in Arunachal Pradesh also announced a Rs 50,000 reward to motivate people and local villagers to search for the aircraft which has been missing since Monday in an area close to the India-China border.
Along with the aerial operation using sophisticated technologies and satellites of the Indian Space Research Organisation, several teams involving the civil administration, police and local people have been assisting the search operation on the ground in and around the jungles of Mechuka to search for the missing aircraft.
"The ongoing search operation is being carried out by a team consisting of police, civilians, hunters and locals who have been continuously scouting the area. Additionally, all 'Gaon Burhas' (GBs or village headmen) have been engaged to aid the search operation," said a senior district administration official.
Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa on Saturday also visited Air Force Station Jorhat to take stock of the search operation.
He was given a detailed briefing about the operation and was apprised with inputs received so far. He also met the families of the officers and airmen who were on board the aircraft.
The search for the missing Indian Air Force An-32 continued for the sixth day on Saturday. Due to poor weather conditions prevailing throughout the day, aerial search could not be undertaken, an IAF statement said.
However, search efforts by ground teams of the Indian Army, ITBP, state police and locals continued in full force.
On June 3, the transport plane with 13 people on board took off from Jorhat Airbase in Assam for the Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground in the West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
The plane disappeared from the radar and immediately the IAF launched a massive search operation to trace its whereabouts.
The search area is mountainous and heavily forested with thick undergrowth. The weather in the area has been inclement with low clouds and rain during most hours. Combined with the inhospitable terrain, the weather has posed serious challenges to aerial search operations, the IAF said.
More areas were being covered by airborne sensors and satellites and the imaging is being followed up by close analysis of the data for its synergistic amalgamation in the search operations.
After bad weather hampered the search for the missing AN-32 transport aircraft and the 13 air warriors on board, the operation resumed at noon as the weather improved.
ISRO has also used its RISAT satellite to try and trace the missing aircraft. However, all efforts have so far failed to track down the plane.
Some of the family members of those on board the aircraft have already reached Jorhat and are waiting anxiously for any news.
The IAF said that it is not sparing any effort in locating the missing air warriors. "We stand in support of the families in these difficult times," the IAF said.
The IAF has already deployed four Mi-17 choppers, three Advanced Light Helicopters, two Su-30 MKI, one C-130 transporter, two Cheetah helicopters and one Army Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to carry out the search.
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