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With ISRO lead, rescuers search for Arunachal CM’s missing chopper

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - 09:22

Itanagar: More than 100 rescue workers early on Tuesday began an arduous trek along a rugged mountainous terrain in Arunachal Pradesh to look for the missing helicopter carrying Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu after satellite images zeroed in on a definite location along the 13,700 feet Sela Pass.

The first possible clues of the missing helicopter emerged late Monday with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) locating metallic objects at a place called Nagarjiji area near the Sela Pass in Tawang district.

The ISRO radar spotted some bright metallic pieces, believed to be the wreckage of the helicopter.

"Heavy rains over the Sela Pass is hampering the movement of the rescue team that had set out for that location early on Tuesday. Maybe only by the evening the first team could possibly reach that spot with the terrain inhospitable and very rugged," an official of the crisis management team said.

"We don`t know if that is the wreckage or anything at this point in time until and unless the search team reaches there," Jarbom Gamlin, state power minister, said.

Two Mi-17 helicopters also began a search and rescue mission over the Sela Pass.

"The two helicopters began their sorties around 6.05 am from Tawang and would fly over the Sela Pass," Indian Air Force spokesperson Ranjeeb Sahoo said.

The Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter carrying the chief minister and four others went missing after it took off from Tawang at 9.50 am 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 perched at an altitude of 13,700 feet.

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 comes just days after another Pawan Hans helicopter crashed in Tawang on 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.


First Published: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - 09:22
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