Apprehensions are increasingly growing with every passing minute over the fate of the missing IAF transport aircraft with 29 people on board as search teams were yet to find any trace of the AN 32 plane.
Even though efforts were intensified on Saturday over the Bay of Bengal where inclement weather appeared to be a hurdle, sources in the Defence Ministry told India Today that the aircraft may have crashed.
They also said that chances of finding the survivors is looking slim as the sea is 3,000 metres deep but rescue operators were only capable of searching till 500 metres.
As there are no islands near the area where the last contact was made, if the plane had crashed, it would have moved hundreds of miles below the sea due to high pressure.
The very rough sea and thick cloud cover in the area are making the search and rescue operations even more difficult.
The Russian-made workhorse of the IAF went missing on Friday soon after taking off from Tambaram air base for Port Blair, a distance of 1,400 km. It made the last radio contact at 0846 hours, 16 minutes after take off.
Meanwhile, families of the missing passengers are desperately clinging on to a hope that they might just be a tiny ray of light after an otherwise grim 72 hours, reports The Indian Express.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who arrived in Chennai on Saturday morning to take stock of the situation, undertook a two-hour aerial survey with as many as 18 navy and coast guard ships including a submarine, and eight aircraft like P 81, C 130 and Dorniers pressed into search operations.
Personally monitoring the operation, Parrikar reviewed the utilisation of assets and resources to find the plane even as he instructed that more resources could be diverted for the purpose if necessary, defence sources said.
He was apprised of the difficult conditions under which operations were being carried out during the last 24 hours.
He has directed all Commanders to be in touch with families and provide them information that may be required, they said.
The Defence Minister was accompanied by senior IAF officials including Chief of Air Staff Arup Raha, before being briefed at the Naval Air station at Arakkonam, located around 50 km from Chennai.
The 29 people on board the plane included six crew members, two of them pilots and one navigator. Besides them, there were 11 personnel from the IAF, including a lady officer, two from the Army, one from the Coast Guard and nine from the navy.
(Feature image source: PTI)