Odisha’s ‘ Ber­muda Tri­an­gle’ re­mains an un­solved mys­tery

The Asian Age - - Special - AK­SHAYA KUMAR SAHOO

The Amarda re­gion, in­fa­mously known as In­dia’s Ber­muda Tri­an­gle, is a “mys­tery zone” that’s nei­ther talked about much nor in­ves­ti­gated de­spite the fact that it has snuffed out many lives with­out a trace of even the re­mains. At least 16 planes, most of them fight­er­train­ers, have crashed in Odisha’s Mayurb­hanj dis­trict of the re­gion in the last 74 years.

The toll in these mishaps has been about 25. Iron­i­cally, these in­ci­dents have not been in­ves­ti­gated prop­erly. Sources in the In­dian Air Force said probes have been con­ducted into all the crashes. How­ever, their find­ings can­not be made pub­lic.

“Probes have been con­ducted into all the crashes, ei­ther in the pre- In­de­pen­dence or postIn­de­pen­dence pe­riod. How­ever, since all the planes be­longed to the de­fence es­tab­lish­ments and the probe find­ings come un­der top se­cret cat­e­gory, they can­not be made pub­lic,” said the sources.

Ac­cord­ing to re­searcher Anil Dhir, the tri­an­gle from Piar­boda near Bankura in West Ben­gal to Chaku­lia in Jhark­hand and Amarda Road Air­field in Odisha has seen nearly 16 crashes since the air­fields were set up in the last years of the World War II. The ear­li­est recorded crash was on May 4, 1944, when an Amer­i­can Lib­er­a­tor col­lided with a Har­vard de Havilland plane and went up in flames at the Amarda Road air­field killing four crew­men. This spot is just 100 km from Mahul­dan­gri vil­lage in East Singhb­hum dis­trict, Jhark­hand, where a Hawk trainer plane crashed on March 20, 2018. The pi­lot in the lat­est crash ejected safely with the help of a para­chute.

On the night of May 7, 1944, another Lib­er­a­tor, which had taken off from Di­gri on a spe­cial mis­sion, crashed 20 min­utes af­ter take- off killing 10 crew­men. Sim­i­larly, another De Havilland fighter had crashed af­ter take- off from the Amarda Road Sta­tion on May 13, 1944, but the crew was saved. On Oc­to­ber 28, 1944, a Lib­er­a­tor that had taken off on a night sor­tie and crashed near Sal­boni, killing eight of the crew. The big­gest crash was on July 26, 1945, when two Bri­tish Royal Air Force B- 24 Lib­er­a­tor four- en­gine bombers, EW225 and EW247 — fighter planes — col­lided at low alti­tude.

The air­craft were based at the Amarda Road air­field and were part of a six- plane con­tin­gent from the Air Fight­ing Train­ing Unit en­gaged in a for­ma­tion fly­ing ex­er­cise. Four­teen air­men — the crews of the two air­craft — died. The spot is now in West Ben­gal. There are at least half a dozen more crashes from these air­fields in which the planes crashed in the Bay of Ben­gal and were never found. Ac­cord­ing Bibek Pat­naik, for­mer col­lec­tor of Mayurb­hanj, a fighter plane had crashed in the Amarda re­gion in 1975, but it was not re­ported be­cause of procla­ma­tion of the Emer­gency. The re­searcher points out that in the last two years of the World War II, the al­lied forces had an­tic­i­pated Ja­panese on­slaught from the North- East and a string of air­fields were made in the re­gion. These in­cluded the air­fields at Jhar­sug­uda, Amarda Road, Char­ba­tia, Hi­jli, Dudhkundi, Di­gri, Salua, Chaku­lia, Kalaikunda and Bish­nupur. Amarda Road was the big­gest air­field.

“Sev­eral air­craft which took part in the Burma op­er­a­tions were man­aged from here. The Burma op­er­a­tions and the China Hump op­er­a­tions had the high­est ca­su­al­ties; the Hump route was termed the grave­yard of air­craft. One in six pi­lots who op­er­ated this route lost his life. In all, 594 air­craft were lost, miss­ing or writ­ten off and 1,659 crew­men killed or went miss­ing. In fact, crash wrecks are still be­ing dis­cov­ered in the hills of Arunachal Pradesh and Megha­laya. Most of the air­fields are now dis­used and for­got­ten,” says Mr Dhir.

Mr Dhir says that most of these crashes in this area oc­curred in good weather con­di­tions and the rea­sons for mishaps re­main un­ex­plained.

“Ac­tu­ally there is no sin­gle the­ory that can ex­plain all dis­ap­pear­ances. The air­planes that crashed have been vic­tims to dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances and sit­u­a­tions while fly­ing over this tri­an­gle area. Half of the crashes re­main un­ex­plained, re­sult­ing in spec­u­la­tion,” says the re­searcher.

The Hawk fighter trainer ( clock­wise from top) that crashed on March 20, 2018; a 1945 plane crash site in Odisha and an Amer­i­can Lib­er­a­tor that crashed in 1944.

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