Search for the missing aircraft was intensified and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar flew to Chennai to monitor the operations.
Families and friends of passengers and crew of AN-32 that went missing on Friday are waiting with bated breath for news about their loved ones. While names of all aboard are yet to be revealed by the government, relatives of two missing people spoke with THE WEEK.
Sajeev Kumar, 38, a petty officer in the Navy, was on the aircraft that went missing over the Bay of Bengal after taking off from Tambaram to Port Blair.
Sajeev's childhood friend and neighbour Avinash said, “We are very close to each other. He called me two days ago and told me that he had lost his mobile. He asked me to call him on his friend’s phone.” Avinash is a lineman in the Kerala State Electricity Board in Kozhikode.
“Sajeev’s parents are anxiously awaiting their son’s call. We hope he is safe. Although, as days pass by, we are becoming more worried. I hope nothing has happened to him,” he said.
Sajeev is married and has a five-year-old daughter. His wife and daughter stay with him in Port Blair. His two brothers are also serving in the Navy.
Avinash said, “Some months ago, he [Sajeev] had undergone an operation at the Kozhikode Medical College. A stone in his urinary tract had to be removed. He reported to work after a few days of rest as advised by the doctors.”
Vimal from Kozhikode, a lance naik with the military engineering department, was also on the ill-fated aircraft.
“He was transferred from Pune to Port Blair recently,” said Jinesh, a relative of him, adding that Vimal was in Kozhikode a few days ago.
Vimal's wife lives in Kozhikode.
Search for the missing aircraft was intensified on Saturday and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar flew to Chennai to monitor the operations.
Parrikar also made an aerial survey from a P81 aircraft in spite of turbulent weather and rough seas.
Two P-81 long range maritime patrol aircraft, two Dornier aircraft and 12 ships with helicopters, a Coast Guard aircraft and a C130 were looking for the missing plane. The Navy has also deployed a submarine for locating transmissions from the emergency locator beacon on board the aircraft.
"Efforts are being made to trace the missing AN-32 transport plane of IAF and the service personnel on board," Parrikar told the media.
The defence ministry, meanwhile, is also clueless as to what happened to the plane.
From Chennai, Parrikar left for Arakkonam from where he was flown to the area where the search operations were being undertaken jointly by the IAF, Navy and Coast Guard.
Parrikar was accompanied by senior IAF officers, including Chief of Air Staff Arup Raha, before being briefed at the Naval Air station at Arakkonam, located around 50km from Chennai.
The transport aircraft made the last radio contact at 0846 hours, 16 minutes after takeoff from Tambaram air base on Friday.
The 29 people on board the Air Force's workhorse aircraft included six crew members, two of them pilots and one navigator. Besides, 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 some of whom were from its armament depot.