Sunday, May 1, 2011

Indian, Bhutanese troops launch search for Arunachal CM

2011-05-01 08:30:00
Last Updated: 2011-05-01 08:35:14

Itanagar: The helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu that went missing remained untraced for the second day Sunday even as Indian and Bhutanese troops have launched a massive ground operation to locate the chopper, although turbulent weather prevented aerial surveys from being undertaken.

'There is no news of our chief minister and the sad part is that very bad weather has prevented helicopters from bases in Assam to launch any search operation,' Arunachal MP Takam Sanjay said.

The Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter went missing after it had taken off from Tawang at 9.50 a.m. Saturday. The last radio contact with the ground was after about 20 to 20 minutes aftrer take off as it flew over the Sela Pass along the Chinese border perched at an altitude of 13,700 feet.
'The fact of the matter is we don't know yet where the helicopter is and moreover Bhutan had denied any reports of the chopper landing there contrary to earlier reports that the helicopter with the chief minister on board had landed somewhere in eastern Bhutan,' Sanjay said.
The helicopter was scheduled to land in the state capital Itanagar at 11.30 a.m. Saturday.

The helicopter had two pilots, J.S. Babbar and K.S. Mallick, and three passengers on board, including the chief minister and his personal security officer Yeshi Choddak. The third passenger, a woman named Yeshi Lamu is a relative of the chief minister and sister of the Tawang Congress party MLA.
'Two Indian Air Force helicopters each were waiting for take off from the Guwahati and Tezpur air bases in Assam and even a Sukhoi was kept on stand by for search operations. But heavy rains in Arunachal Pradesh had delayed any aerial search so far,' Sanjay said.

Two central ministers, Mukul Wasnik and V. Narayanswamy, are arriving Itanagar Sunday to oversee the search operations with both of them being rushed under express orders from the prime minister.
The helicopter in question, AS350 B-3, is a single-engine chopper. In case of an engine failure, there are very slim chances of the helicopter making a safe landing.

The incident came just days after another Pawan Hans helicopter crashed in Tawang April 19, killing 17 people and injuring six.
The Pawan Hans Helicopter Services Limited (PHHL) has been operating five helicopters across Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura and daily Guwahati-Tawang services for the past nine years. It is one of the major lifelines of the landlocked Arunachal Pradesh.


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