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No trace yet of Khandu�s copter

By Correspondent

ITANAGAR, May 1 � Union Minister of State V Narayanasamy today said that all-out efforts are on to locate the helicopter carrying Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others that went missing Saturday and �we are hopeful of locating the chopper�.

Emerging from a marathon meeting he had with the state ministers and top civil and police officials here this evening, the Union Minister told mediapersons, �Apart from the help from ISRO and Sukhoi aircraft from IAF, Army and paramilitary forces are being pressed into service to trace out the missing chopper and the Chief Minister. We are hopeful of locating the missing chopper and its occupants including Dorjee Khandu.�

�So far, there is no information about the helicopter with Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others and bad weather has hampered the aerial surveys. We are in constant touch with the Bhutan government and trying to locate exactly where the helicopter could have landed,� divulged Narayanasamy before the waiting mediapersons outside the Chief Minister�s official bungalow here after emerging from a marathon one-and-a-half-hour-long closed-door meeting with the state ministers, senior government officials and others.

�The chopper carrying Chief Minister Khandu and four others that went missing yesterday still remains traceless with the bad weather hampering the search operation being launched by Indian Air Force (IAF) and ground search by the Army, para-military forces and State Police to locate the missing chopper.�

�Two helicopters are ready at Guwahati and Sukhoi aircraft at Tezpur airbase for search operation but the adverse weather condition is hampering their operations,� said the Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, adding, �As soon as the weather condition improves, they will be able to go for the search operation.�

�They (search teams) are trying to locate the missing helicopter and all things are going on in a concerted manner,� added Narayanasamy, who along with Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik arrived here around 12 noon on the directive of the Prime Minister to monitor the situation.

He said, �The Central Government, including Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, has taken the matter seriously and is very concerned about the wellbeing of the Chief Minister and his missing chopper. The Home Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs are in constant touch with the Government of Bhutan, which is extending all cooperation.�

Narayanasamy said that a formal statement with authenticated information on the missing helicopter would be made by the evening, hinting at a possible press briefing. However, there was no further information in this regard.

Apart from the Indian Space Research Organization being roped in for the job, informed sources said that two Sukhoi-30 aircraft from a base in Bareilly completed aerial mapping over Arunachal Pradesh in an attempt to get definite clues about the missing helicopter.

The mysterious call: It was learnt that the Union ministers� duo were engaged in yet another round of meeting with state cabinet and senior civil and police officials trying to track down the �mysterious� telephone call that came to the Principal Secretary to CM yesterday that �the helicopter had landed in Bhutan and all of its occupants, including CM Dorjee Khandu, are safe and sound�.

Our Tezpur Correspondent adds: According to Defence PRO here, NN Joshi, �Only one MI 17 helicopter managed to make two sorties from Tawang but returned due to bad weather.� Two Cheetah helicopters were also supposed to take off from Tezpur but were held up due to bad weather. He further disclosed that one Sukhoi 30 aircraft flown in from Bareilli, has already gone back after making aerial survey in the vulnerable areas.

�The analysis report of Sukhoi mapping the final strategy of rescue operation would be disclosed officially�, he added. Another Sukhoi stationed at Tezpur air base was ready to fly but couldn�t take off as it did not get proper permission from MOD on time.

Defense sources at Tezpur informed that the rescue operation was headed by GOC, 4 Corps, Gyan Bhushan.

The Army, ITBP, SSB and Arunachal Police began search operation in the hilly terrain of Indo-China border, Indo-Bhutan border and Assam-Arunachal border. The Army columns from Tawang and Tenga moved in for search operations and all the ITBP outposts were engaged in search operations.

In Trashiyangtse district in Bhutan adjoining Tawang, Bhutanese army and local people conducted search operations for the chopper.

It may be mentioned that Sela Pass situated at an altitude of 13700 feet from sea level is a deep forest mountainous range where search on foot is problematic.

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No trace yet of Khandu�s copter

ITANAGAR, May 1 � Union Minister of State V Narayanasamy today said that all-out efforts are on to locate the helicopter carrying Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others that went missing Saturday and �we are hopeful of locating the chopper�.

Emerging from a marathon meeting he had with the state ministers and top civil and police officials here this evening, the Union Minister told mediapersons, �Apart from the help from ISRO and Sukhoi aircraft from IAF, Army and paramilitary forces are being pressed into service to trace out the missing chopper and the Chief Minister. We are hopeful of locating the missing chopper and its occupants including Dorjee Khandu.�

�So far, there is no information about the helicopter with Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others and bad weather has hampered the aerial surveys. We are in constant touch with the Bhutan government and trying to locate exactly where the helicopter could have landed,� divulged Narayanasamy before the waiting mediapersons outside the Chief Minister�s official bungalow here after emerging from a marathon one-and-a-half-hour-long closed-door meeting with the state ministers, senior government officials and others.

�The chopper carrying Chief Minister Khandu and four others that went missing yesterday still remains traceless with the bad weather hampering the search operation being launched by Indian Air Force (IAF) and ground search by the Army, para-military forces and State Police to locate the missing chopper.�

�Two helicopters are ready at Guwahati and Sukhoi aircraft at Tezpur airbase for search operation but the adverse weather condition is hampering their operations,� said the Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, adding, �As soon as the weather condition improves, they will be able to go for the search operation.�

�They (search teams) are trying to locate the missing helicopter and all things are going on in a concerted manner,� added Narayanasamy, who along with Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik arrived here around 12 noon on the directive of the Prime Minister to monitor the situation.

He said, �The Central Government, including Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, has taken the matter seriously and is very concerned about the wellbeing of the Chief Minister and his missing chopper. The Home Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs are in constant touch with the Government of Bhutan, which is extending all cooperation.�

Narayanasamy said that a formal statement with authenticated information on the missing helicopter would be made by the evening, hinting at a possible press briefing. However, there was no further information in this regard.

Apart from the Indian Space Research Organization being roped in for the job, informed sources said that two Sukhoi-30 aircraft from a base in Bareilly completed aerial mapping over Arunachal Pradesh in an attempt to get definite clues about the missing helicopter.

The mysterious call: It was learnt that the Union ministers� duo were engaged in yet another round of meeting with state cabinet and senior civil and police officials trying to track down the �mysterious� telephone call that came to the Principal Secretary to CM yesterday that �the helicopter had landed in Bhutan and all of its occupants, including CM Dorjee Khandu, are safe and sound�.

Our Tezpur Correspondent adds: According to Defence PRO here, NN Joshi, �Only one MI 17 helicopter managed to make two sorties from Tawang but returned due to bad weather.� Two Cheetah helicopters were also supposed to take off from Tezpur but were held up due to bad weather. He further disclosed that one Sukhoi 30 aircraft flown in from Bareilli, has already gone back after making aerial survey in the vulnerable areas.

�The analysis report of Sukhoi mapping the final strategy of rescue operation would be disclosed officially�, he added. Another Sukhoi stationed at Tezpur air base was ready to fly but couldn�t take off as it did not get proper permission from MOD on time.

Defense sources at Tezpur informed that the rescue operation was headed by GOC, 4 Corps, Gyan Bhushan.

The Army, ITBP, SSB and Arunachal Police began search operation in the hilly terrain of Indo-China border, Indo-Bhutan border and Assam-Arunachal border. The Army columns from Tawang and Tenga moved in for search operations and all the ITBP outposts were engaged in search operations.

In Trashiyangtse district in Bhutan adjoining Tawang, Bhutanese army and local people conducted search operations for the chopper.

It may be mentioned that Sela Pass situated at an altitude of 13700 feet from sea level is a deep forest mountainous range where search on foot is problematic.