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Satellites provide pointers, but no signs of Indian Air Force aircraft yet

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IAF AN-32 maximum speed is 530Kmph. Image Source: Indian Express
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  • The missing aircraft, an upgraded AN-32 belonging to 33 Squadron, took off from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai at 8.30 a.m on Jul 22
  • Indigenous satellites have provided some pointers and ships are searching the indicated area, but nothing has been spotted
  • There is a possibility that in the Bay of Bengal there are several whirlpools that may have dragged down the debris

CHENNAI/NEW DELHI: An Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft which disappeared on Friday with 29 people on board remained missing on Sunday, July 24, despite an intensive search and rescue operation, codenamed ‘Operation Talash”, and some pointers were provided by indigenous satellites.

A senior defence ministry official said indigenous satellites have provided some pointers and ships are searching the indicated area, but nothing has been spotted.

The navy has pressed a flotilla of vessels including a submarine to locate the missing AN-32 which went off the radar two days ago over the Bay of Bengal just half hour after taking off from Chennai on its journey to Port Blairr.

There has been no trace of the plane or debris. There are also no signals from the transporter, officials said.

According to Indian Coast Guard, an international safety network was activated as part of the search and rescue procedures for alerting the merchant ships passing through the region.

The Coast Guard said ships like MV Harsh Vardhana enroute from Port Blair to Chennai, MV Sebat and MV Delice were directed to keep a sharp look out for survivors or debris.

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An experienced pilot of the Indian defence forces told IANS: “Normally it would take a week for the debris to float in such cases. But search and rescue operations have to be carried out.”

According to him, if the plane broke into several parts, then there may be a possibility of some debris floating.

But if it falls into the sea without breaking, then it may take nearly a week for some items to come to the surface from the sea depth.

“As per our calculations, the sea depth in the area of search is around 3,500 metres,” T.M. Balakrishnan Nair, Head, Information Services Group, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), told IANS over phone from Hyderabad.

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He said the organisation was running models estimating the distance to where the plane debris would have been carried by the sea current.

“In the Bay of Bengal there are several whirlpools that may have dragged down the debris,” he added.

Eastern Naval Command chief Vice Admiral H.C.S. Bisht said that a large number of ships, helicopters and aircraft are contributing to the search.

“We are also seeking ISRO’s help to get satellite imagery of that area so that we have at least some information… Parallelly we are also reaching out to families,” he said.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, after reviewing the search and rescue operations on Saturday, had asked the commanding officers to keep in touch with families of those on board the missing aircraft.

Bisht said the search has been made difficult by the monsoon weather conditions over the sea.

“The only challenge we are facing is of monsoon condition, rough seas; another challenge is the depth which is around 3,500 meters and at some points even more than that,” he said.

The cloud base is low and it is raining continuously in the area, he said.

“We are continuously searching the area. As of now we have 12 ships. We will be increasing the assets. We are also doing regular aerial surveillance. The aim is to harness as many resources as possible.”

The missing aircraft, an upgraded AN-32 belonging to 33 Squadron, took off from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai at 8.30 a.m. and was expected to land at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 11.30 a.m.

The recorded transcript of Chennai air traffic radar showed the last pickup of the aircraft was 151 nautical miles east of Chennai when it was observed to have carried out a left turn with rapid loss of height from 23,000 feet.

The AN-32 is a twin engine turboprop, medium tactical transport aircraft of Russian origin. It can carry a maximum load of around 6.7 tonnes or 39 paratroopers. Its maximum cruise speed is 530 kmph. (IANS)

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The Families Of Victims In Railway Accident Incident In India Stage Protests

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the accident a "heart-wrenching tragedy" and asked officials to provide immediate assistance to the injured.

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People gather at the site of an accident after a train traveling at high speed ploughed through a crowd of people on rail tracks near Amritsar, India. VOA

Angry relatives of the scores of people who were killed in India when they were run over by a speeding train staged protests Saturday while one of the country’s railway officials maintains the railway is not responsible for the tragic accident.

The train was traveling at high speed when it ploughed through a crowd Friday at a religious festival on the outskirts of the northern city of Amritsar, killing 59 people, Punjab state’s Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, told reporters Saturday. Singh said 57 others were injured and an official investigation would be carried out over the next four weeks.

The Jalandhar-Amritsar express was traveling at 90 kilometers per hour when it hit the crowd, which had gathered on the tracks to watch a fireworks display marking the Hindu festival of Dussehra.

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The Hindu festival of Dussehra.

Hundreds of relatives of the victims engaged in sporadic protests on and near the tracks Saturday, calling for action against local authorities and the train operator, who was questioned Saturday by police.

Authorities moved the protestors off the tracks and brought in reinforcements to control the crowd.

‘No lapse on our part’

The railway accident was India’s worst in years, but the junior minister who manages Indian Railways, the world’s fourth largest rail system, refused to accept responsibility.

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A man mourns next to the burning pyre of a family member who died after a train traveling at high speed ploughed through a crowd of people, at a cremation site in Amritsar, India. VOA

“Railways cannot be blamed. Railways were not informed about the ceremony,” Manoj Sinha told reporters Saturday. Speaking to reporters, Sinha ruled out any punitive action against his staff, saying, “There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated.”

Local government officials said the festival takes place every year on the outskirts of Amritsar and that railroad authorities are alerted to run the trains at slow speeds.

Witnesses said the victims did not realize the train was coming because of the sound of the fireworks and celebrations.

‘Heart-wrenching’

Some witnesses said the train did not sound its whistle as it sped past the festival site.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the accident a “heart-wrenching tragedy” and asked officials to provide immediate assistance to the injured.

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India’s railway network remains the main form of travel in the vast country, where railway accidents are relatively common.

Millions of Hindus celebrate the Dussehra festival by burning giant effigies of the demon Ravana, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. (VOA)