New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has dismissed reports that claimed wreckage of missing AN-32 aircraft was spotted near Tato in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Earlier in the day, the transport aircraft with 13 people on board, including eight crew members and five passengers, had taken off from Assam’s Jorhat airbase at 12:25 pm when it lost contact with ground staff.

The aircraft was heading to the Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground in Arunachal Pradesh. The Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground is located near the China border.

“Efforts are on to establish the whereabouts of the aircraft. C-130J, AN-32 and Mi-17 of IAF and Indian Army ALH helicopter launched to locate the missing aircraft. Some reports of possible location of crash site were received, however, no wreckage has been sighted so far. IAF is coordinating with Indian Army, various government and civil agencies to locate the missing aircraft. Search operations will continue from air and by ground parties of Indian Army through the night,” IAF PRO Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said in a statement.

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that that he is keeping track of the situation.

“Spoke to Vice Chief of IAF, Air Marshal Rakesh Singh Bhadauria regarding the missing IAF AN-32 Aircraft which is overdue for some hours. He has apprised me of steps taken by IAF to find the aircraft. I pray for the safety of all passengers on board,” Singh tweeted.

The disappearance of AN-32 today brought back agonising memories of another plane of the transport fleet going missing over the Bay of Bengal in 2016. The Russian-origin plane with 29 people on board, including six crew members, had gone missing in June, three years ago, while flying from Chennai to Port Blair.

The aircraft had taken off at 8:30 am from Tambaram in Chennai and the last time it was contacted was 16 minutes later, defence sources had then said. A few months after the incident, a Court of Inquiry had concluded that those on board the missing aircraft of the IAF were to be “presumed dead”.

Similarly in 2009, the IAF had lost another AN-32 aircraft which crashed near a village in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, killing all the 13 defence personnel in the mishap.