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Chopper carrying Arunachal CM remains missing

By The Assam Tribune

Itanagar, May 2 (IANS): The helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, reported missing since Saturday, remained untraced for the third straight day on Monday even as authorities zeroed in on three probable locations to track down the chopper, officials said.

"There is no news yet about the missing helicopter but all efforts are on to get some clue," Arunachal Pradesh MP Takam Sanjay told IANS.

The Crisis Management Team monitoring the rescue and search operation here identified three possible locations where the helicopter might have landed or crashed - Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary and Nagajen in the State's West Kameng district, and the small village of Mobi in Trashiyangtse district of Bhutan.

All the three locations are bordering the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh from where the Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter carrying the Chief Minister and four others was reported missing after it took off from Tawang at 9.50am on Saturday. The last radio contact with the ground was about 20 minutes after take-off as it flew over the Sela Pass along the Chinese border at an altitude of 13,700 feet.

"The search teams are now concentrating on the three areas to locate the helicopter. The three locations were zeroed in based on satellite images and other local reports," an official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

Meanwhile, four Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed into service early Monday for conducting aerial surveys - two Mi-17 helicopters took off from Tawang and two Chetak helicopters flew from a base in Tezpur in Assam.

Bad weather, however, led the aerial survey to be abandoned for the day after about two hours of flying.

Meanwhile, a team of senior politicians, and police, paramilitary and civil officials, accompanied by local volunteers, left for Bomdila in West Kameng district to oversee the search and rescue operation. "I am leading the team to Bomdila and we would set up a camp there and personally organise and oversee the search and rescue operation. We would fan out troops and locals to look for the helicopter," the MP said.

Senior minister Nabam Tuki said: "There is no news yet of the missing helicopter. Search operations are on with hundreds of army, police, and paramilitary troopers conducting an intensive ground search along the route the helicopter flew. Besides, a coordinated operation is on in Bhutan."

On Sunday, two satellites from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) had taken images but they were hazy due to bad weather.

Two Sukhoi-30 aircrafts from a base in Bareilly also completed aerial mapping over Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday in an attempt to get definite clues about the missing helicopter.

"We are expecting a report of the satellite images later in the day," the minister said.

A sense of despondency prevails in Arunachal Pradesh.

"We are hoping against hope now to get some news about the helicopter and its occupants. There are prayers being held in all the Buddhist monasteries for some good news," Congress legislator from Tawang Tsewang Dhondup said. Yeshmi Lamu, the lone woman occupant in the helicopter, is the younger sister of Dhondhup. "She was in the helicopter with the chief minister for some medical check-up in Itanagar."

"Everybody is praying for the chief minister and the other four people. We also want a clarification from the governor for making such an irresponsible statement (Saturday) about the safe landing of the helicopter," Baman Felix, a civil rights leader in Arunachal Pradesh said.

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.

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Chopper carrying Arunachal CM remains missing

Itanagar, May 2 (IANS): The helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, reported missing since Saturday, remained untraced for the third straight day on Monday even as authorities zeroed in on three probable locations to track down the chopper, officials said.

"There is no news yet about the missing helicopter but all efforts are on to get some clue," Arunachal Pradesh MP Takam Sanjay told IANS.

The Crisis Management Team monitoring the rescue and search operation here identified three possible locations where the helicopter might have landed or crashed - Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary and Nagajen in the State's West Kameng district, and the small village of Mobi in Trashiyangtse district of Bhutan.

All the three locations are bordering the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh from where the Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter carrying the Chief Minister and four others was reported missing after it took off from Tawang at 9.50am on Saturday. The last radio contact with the ground was about 20 minutes after take-off as it flew over the Sela Pass along the Chinese border at an altitude of 13,700 feet.

"The search teams are now concentrating on the three areas to locate the helicopter. The three locations were zeroed in based on satellite images and other local reports," an official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

Meanwhile, four Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed into service early Monday for conducting aerial surveys - two Mi-17 helicopters took off from Tawang and two Chetak helicopters flew from a base in Tezpur in Assam.

Bad weather, however, led the aerial survey to be abandoned for the day after about two hours of flying.

Meanwhile, a team of senior politicians, and police, paramilitary and civil officials, accompanied by local volunteers, left for Bomdila in West Kameng district to oversee the search and rescue operation. "I am leading the team to Bomdila and we would set up a camp there and personally organise and oversee the search and rescue operation. We would fan out troops and locals to look for the helicopter," the MP said.

Senior minister Nabam Tuki said: "There is no news yet of the missing helicopter. Search operations are on with hundreds of army, police, and paramilitary troopers conducting an intensive ground search along the route the helicopter flew. Besides, a coordinated operation is on in Bhutan."

On Sunday, two satellites from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) had taken images but they were hazy due to bad weather.

Two Sukhoi-30 aircrafts from a base in Bareilly also completed aerial mapping over Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday in an attempt to get definite clues about the missing helicopter.

"We are expecting a report of the satellite images later in the day," the minister said.

A sense of despondency prevails in Arunachal Pradesh.

"We are hoping against hope now to get some news about the helicopter and its occupants. There are prayers being held in all the Buddhist monasteries for some good news," Congress legislator from Tawang Tsewang Dhondup said. Yeshmi Lamu, the lone woman occupant in the helicopter, is the younger sister of Dhondhup. "She was in the helicopter with the chief minister for some medical check-up in Itanagar."

"Everybody is praying for the chief minister and the other four people. We also want a clarification from the governor for making such an irresponsible statement (Saturday) about the safe landing of the helicopter," Baman Felix, a civil rights leader in Arunachal Pradesh said.

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.