Search for missing Indian air force plane leads to possible debris, defense chief says

NEW DELHI, July 27 (UPI) — The massive search for a missing Indian air force plane has led to the discovery of several objects that could possibly be from the aircraft, the nation’s defense chief said Wednesday.

During a news conference, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said the search operation for the lost AN-32 has led officials to possible debris in the Bay of Bengal.

“There is no confirmed report, but there are some objects located,” Parrikar said. “The ships have been asked to verify them.”

The Russian-made, twin-engine turboprop Antonov An-32, carrying 29 people, disappeared on Friday just minutes after departing Tambaram, a suburb of Chennai (formerly Madras) en route to Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

On Tuesday, officials said search teams have picked up pings that are possibly from the aircraft’s emergency beacon on the sea floor. However, investigators still aren’t certain whether the pings or the newly found objects are part of the missing plane.

“Unless something is positively located, it cannot be confirmed,” Parrikar added. “As of now, it is only an indicator. We are not leaving anything to chances.”

The search for the AN-32 is India’s largest at sea. In addition to scrutinizing satellite imagery, officials have also alerted merchant ships passing potential crash sites to keep an eye out for floating debris or survivors.

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