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Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: Even as search operations for missing AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) continue, the news of an Odia officer being among the 13 other personnel on the ill-fated aircraft, which is still untraceable, has come as a shock for the residents of his home town in Ganjam district.

According to sources, Flight Lieutenant Sunit Mohanty, who hails from Baliapalli of Kabisuryanagar, had boarded the AN-32 aircraft which took off from Jorhat in Assam on June 3.

The transporter aircraft went missing 33 minutes after its take off from Jorhat for Arunachal’s Menchuka near the China border.

Sunit’s family is completely shattered by the news of his disappearance. His father, a retired IAF officer, Surendra Nath informed that his son was commissioned in the Air Force in 2014.

“He (Sunit) had last spoken to his mother to wish her happy birthday. Since then, we are yet to get any information about him,” said Kumar.

Nath further stated that though IAF is doing its part, there needs to be some seriousness on the political level as well.

“The entire search operation needs to be intensified and more ground troops should be deployed. As he (Sunit) was our only son, we are completely shattered,” he added.

Following the disappearance of the aircraft, the IAF reportedly has deployed all available resources, including Sukhoi Su-30 combat fighter jets and C-130J Hercules special operations aircraft to locate the missing aircraft.

IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said despite inclement weather, the joint search operations by IAF, Army and local administrations were continued.

"Search operations by helicopters, P-8I of the Indian Navy, besides C130J and ground parties of the Indian Army and locals were conducted but there was no sight of the aircraft," Singh said.

He added that the search operations by helicopters were called off due to low lights and would resume Saturday morning.

Ground teams of Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police along with locals and district administration officials are searching areas around Siang district, official sources said.

A senior IAF official said, P-8I of the Navy undertook a search mission from Arakonnam base on Friday morning.

"The helicopters, transport aircraft, UAVs and other sensors are involved in extensive search and rescue whenever weather is permitting. The search area continues to expand to look at all possibilities. All electronic, radar, optical and infrared sensors including satellites are being employed to scan the area for any probable clues," he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of residents of Baliapalli village offererd prayers for safe return of the missing Odia Flight Lieutenant.

(With IANS inputs)

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