The Indian Air Force is yet to commence the operation to retrieve the bodies of the 13 personnel, who were killed in the AN-32 plane crash, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. An additional 19-member team has set off on foot to assist the existing 18-member team camping near the crash site in Arunachal Pradesh close to the China border.
Helicopters have been on standby since Saturday. The delay has been attributed to bad weather. “Helicopters, including Mi17s, Cheetah and ALH have been unable to approach the site during the last three days, because of inclement weather in the valleys and cloud cover over the crash site,” said IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh. “Retrieval operations require the steep mountainsides to be visible for the helicopters to safely hover close to the crash site and for operating crew to be able to see the personnel on the ground.”
The team is tasked with airlifting the bodies from the slopes of the mountain. Wing Commander Singh said the additional 19-member team was pressed to help the existing team as the “weather and clouds did not allow any helicopter flying”. The trekking team has four Garud commandos of the IAF, four from Special forces of Army, one civilian hunter and 11 porters. This new team is likely to reach the crash site late on Wednesday, reported The Arunachal Times.
The air force had said that it has “flown around 200 sorties towards the AN-32 search and recovery operations” and that no efforts are being spared in recovering the remains of the deceased for which eight helicopters have been deployed.
On June 3, the aircraft went missing 33 minutes after taking off from Jorhat in Assam. It was travelling to Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh, near the China border. An air force team found the wreckage of the missing aircraft on June 11 at a height of 12,000 feet in the Payum region of Arunachal Pradesh’s Shi Yomi district.