'Sagar Nidhi' taken off AN-32 search temporarily

'Sagar Nidhi' taken off AN-32 search temporarily

'Sagar Nidhi' taken off AN-32 search temporarily

In a major setback to the search operations of the missing Indian Air Force’s AN-32 flight, the defence authorities have suspended the services of ‘Sagar Nidhi’ vessel to locate the aircraft.

Though the Minister of State for Defence Subhash Ramrao Bhamre recently said it is “unlikely” that there are any survivors on board the AN-32 aircraft that went missing over the Bay of Bengal on July 22, search operations to locate the aircraft continued with ‘Sagar Nidhi’, of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), aiding the defence personnel for deep sea search.

However, in a sudden development, the NIOT ship will now return, with the search and rescue team saying that the vessel will travel back for fueling and loading food and provisions for the defence squad.

“It (Sagar Nidhi) has spent more than eight months in the sea off the Mauritius coast for research activities. From there, the ship was directly sent for search operations and therefore, brief maintenance work, including fueling, is required,” a senior Coast Guard official on Tuesday told DH seeking anonymity. “It will be here for a few days before resuming its search work,” he added. According to the official, the surface search for the missing aircraft will continue.

The AN-32, belonging to the IAF, had taken off on a routine courier flight to Port Blair from Tambaram air base near Chennai on July 22 at 8.30 am with six crew and 23 personnel, but never reached its destination. It was last seen on the radars at 9 am on the same day.

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