A 15-member team of rescuers was airlifted on Wednesday close to the crash site of the IAF's AN-32 aircraft in Arunachal Pradesh to look for possible survivors, but difficult terrain and inclement weather hampered their progress.
"They are yet to reach the crash site due to inclement weather and terrain. Team will be camping overnight due to difficult terrain and weather, and will close in to the crash site tomorrow," an IAF spokesperson said.
The nine personnel from IAF's mountaineering team, four from the Army and two civilian mountaineers were dispatched a day after the wreckage of the aircraft was located by an IAF Mi-17 helicopter at a height of 12,000 ft near Gatte village on the border of Siang and Shi-Yomi districts in Arunachal Pradesh following an eight-day-long, muti-agency search.
The area is thickly forested and has been receiving heavy rains since the last three days, according to local officials.
“There are reports of rain and haze all over the mountainous zones of Siang district and I think it will be a herculean task due to the inhospitable terrain,” Shi-Yomi district deputy commissioner Mito Dirchi told PTI.
A massive search operation had been launched to look for the missing aircraft which had 13 people on board.
The Russian-origin AN-32 aircraft was going from Jorhat in Assam to Menchuka advanced landing ground near the border with China on June 3 when it lost contact with ground staff at 1 pm, within 33 minutes of taking off.
Air Marshal RD Mathur, Air officer-commanding-in-chief Eastern Air Command complimented the search team for their relentless effort.
Mathur also thanked Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Chief Secretary Satya Gopa for extending unflinching support to the IAF towards locating the missing aircraft.
"The proud and highly patriotic people of the state have worked tirelessly to help the IAF for a national cause," said the spokesperson.
An AN-32 aircraft had crashed near a village in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh in June 2009 in which 13 defence personnel were killed.
The aircraft had crashed over the Rinchi Hill above Heyo village, about 30 km from Mechuka advance landing ground.
In July 2016, an AN-32 aircraft went missing after taking off from Chennai for Port Blair with 29 people on board.
The aircraft could not be traced even after weeks of massive search operations covering 2,17,800 square nautical miles by multiple aircraft.
Months later, an IAF court of inquiry concluded that it was unlikely that the missing personnel on board the aircraft would have survived the accident.