LEBAK, Sultan Kudarat (MindaNews / 14 June) – Search and Rescue teams composed of soldiers, police and Bureau of Fire personnel from this town, Esperanza and Senator Ninoy Aquino towns, were dispatched to the hinterlands to search the site where a huge object reportedly crashed at around 11 a.m. Sunday.
But as of Sunday night, rescuers have not found the crash site.
Lebak mayor Dionisio Besana said he dispatched a team to locate the crash site. “If that was a plane, we are prepared.”
Rumors flew thick and fast on Sunday afternoon that a commercial aircraft crashed. Later reports said it was a light aircraft.
In a statement released Sunday afternoon, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said it was still verifying reports that a light aircraft crashed. But its Operation Rescue and Coordinating Center reported that all commercial flights flying near the area were accounted for.
Another report said it was not a plane but the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRRM) spacecraft, a joint mission of the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to study reainfall for weather and climate research. The TRMM, according to a NASA report posted on its website, was expected to re-enter the Earth’s atmopshere “on or about June 17.”
A June 14 update from NASA said the re-entry was expected at 2:37 a.m. ETD. “Due to natural variations in the near-Earth environment, a precise time and location of where spacecraft will reenter cannot be forecast,” it said.
There is no confirmation, as yet, if what crashed in the hinterlands of Sultan Kudarat province, was the TRRM.
SFo4 Manuel Flores, a fireman and rescuer from Lebak, said they were proceeding to Barangay Salumbing.
The 6th Infantry Division sentits air assets to help in the search but bad weather forced them to turn back.
Soldiers on patrol in the hinterlands also faced difficulties with the slipperty trail due to the rains.
Residents here siad they thought a bomb exploded or the the explosion came from the soldiers’ armory.
“ Malakas sa sumabog Sir, Akala namin mortar o bomba” (The explosion was so loud. We thought it was a mortar or a bomb that exploded).
The rescue teams appealed to the public to verify their sources of information before posting on social media as they have yet to release any information and have yet to locate the source of the explosion.
A NASA report on the TRRM posted on its website said that since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, “there has been no confirmed report of an injury resulting from re-entering space objects.”
The last NASA spacecraft to re-enter was the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) in September 2011. UARS was a much larger satellite than TRMM and NASA received no reports of surviving debris.
NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office estimates 12 components of the TRMM spacecraft could survive reentry but the . chance that one of these pieces would strike someone is ”approximately 1 in 4,200, which is a relatively low chance.”
The NASA also report said “any sightings of suspected TRMM debris should be reported to local authorities.”
It said the pieces of TRMM expected to survive re-entry are made of titanium and are not toxic. “Debris could have sharp edges and should not be touched or handled, in the unlikely event someone were to find TRMM fragments,” the NASA said. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)