Missing Army plane: Arunachal villagers saw smoke

Missing Army plane: Arunachal villagers saw smoke

The aircraft, IAF AN-32, took off from Jorhat at 12.27 pm for the Menchuka advance landing ground, and its last contact with the ground control was at 1 pm. A total of eight crew and five passengers were on board the plane. REUTERS/Amit Gupta/File Photo

Residents of an Arunachal Pradesh village on Thursday said they had seen thick black smoke billowing from a mountain on Monday, the day an Indian Air Force aircraft carrying 13 people went missing, prompting authorities to verify the claim.

As efforts to locate the missing plane continued, Chief Minister Pema Khandu called up deputy commissioners of Siang, West Siang, Lower Siang and Shi Yomi districts and directed them to intensify the search operation.

The authorities of Siang and West Siang districts have formed three teams to carry out searches in as many mountain ranges on the aircraft's route, a statement from the Chief Minister's Office said here.

Three people from Tumbin village said that on Monday afternoon they had seen thick black smoke originating from a mountain towards Molo village in Siang district. "This is being verified," Director General of Police S B K Singh informed the CMO.

The Russian-origin aircraft lost contact on Monday afternoon after taking off from Jorhat in Assam for Mechuka advanced landing ground near the border with China. Mechuka is also the headquarter of Shi Yomi district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Each of the teams set up by the two district authorities consists of 3-4 local people and they will trek to Bayor Adi Mountain range near Tumbin village, Pari Adi mountain range near Molo village and Sibir-Virgong mountain range between Molo and Tumbin, the statement said.

"Necessary logistical support have been provided to the teams. Bayor Adi team trekked yesterday and returned without any news," it said.

A joint effort by civil police, Army and Air Force is also in force to search the crash location in an area of about 2,500 square kilometres under Kaying and Payum circles of Siang district.

However, the location is yet to be found out.

The chief minister also appealed to the villagers of the areas falling on the route of the aircraft to provide information, if they had any, to the nearest administrative headquarter or police outpost.

The aircraft took off from Jorhat at 12.27 pm for the Menchuka advance landing ground, and its last contact with the ground control was at 1 pm. A total of eight crew and five passengers were on board the plane. 

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