YSR`s fate still uncertain; search operation resumes

Search operations to locate the missing chopper carrying Andhra Pradesh CM YSR Reddy resumed in Nallamalai forest region at 6:30 am today.

Updated: Sep 03, 2009, 08:35 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy`s fate still appeared uncertain as search operations to locate the missing chopper carrying Reddy resumed in Nallamalai forest region at 6:30 am on Thursday morning, officials said.

At the day break, at least five IAF helicopters resumed search operations while the Army and police intensified the biggest-ever search operation.
"Efforts are on to trace the missing helicopter. Aerial search operations by four choppers resumed at 6.30 am in Kurnool district and three more helicopters are on their way to join the search operations," Kurnool District SP C H Srikant told a news agency over phone.

Aerial search by helicopters to locate the missing Bell-430 chopper were stopped last evening because of bad light and weather conditions in the area.

The SP said Greyhounds -- Andhra`s elite anti-naxalite commando force -- Army, state police forces and CRPF personnel were engaged in search operations.

"Several parties of the Greyhounds, Army, State police and CRPF have been pressed into service," Srikant said adding hundreds of local civilians and tribals have also joined the search operations.

According to the latest development a 5-km radius area in the Nallamalai forests in the state from where the missing helicopter carrying Reddy made the last contact to Air Traffic Control has been identified, Union Minister Prithviraj Chavan said here.

"By triangulation, we have located the area which is about 5-km raidus circle and it has been identified based on the last contact with the Air Traffic Control," Chavan, the
Union Minister of State in the PMO, told reporters.

"They (people on board the chopper) were carrying about five cell phones and so whenever a cell phone passes through a tower it will register and with best help from BSNL, we will identify the area," Chavan, who along with Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily rushed here last night, said.

"We are sparing no efforts whatsoever. We have deployed everything what we have got, Airforce, state police, air-surveillance, satellite imagery and remote-sensing aircraft have been taking photos. Everything has been put into service," Chavan said.

"It is that area where the last contact with Air Traffic Control was made and also contact with a BSNL mobile tower was made," he said.
Chavan said the photos were not visible clearly and he expects to get clear information in the morning.

"The state machinery is fully geared and briefed us completely and we are quite satisfied that all efforts are being made to locate Rajasekhara Reddy," Chavan said.

Asked what are the chances of the survival of persons on board the chopper, Chavan said, "Let`s not speculate. Let`s hope and pray that with the best equipment at our disposal, we
will go to the point which is the identified area of about 5-km radius."

Moily said the state and central governments are taking best possible efforts to locate the chopper. "In fact we expect that something… some positive signals will come back
in the early hours."

On Wedneday, Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary Ramakant Reddy told reporters that the Air Force, ISRO and Government of India were providing all possible help in the search operations. He said the operations have been marred by inclement weather and rainfall which was expected to continue for the next 48 hours.

He also revealed that the US Defence Department had been approached through the Central government for its satellite support. US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer offered all assistance but the NSA politely refused the help, NSA said. The secretary had said Indian satellites had till now not been able to peer through the clouds. “They can’t provide real-time imagery,” he had added.

A massive search operation had been launched with 5000 CRPF personnel and fourteen battalions of state police have been pressed into a ground operation.

Rosaiah also said that the Prime Minister’s office as well as the offices of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Home Minister Chidambaram and Defence Minister AK Antony are being kept posted about the latest developments.

Reddy was on his way to Chitoor, by chopper which initial reports said had made an emergency landing near Kurnool due to inclement weather.

A twin-engined Bell 430 AP government helicopter carrying the Chief Minister took off from old Begumpet airport at 8.35am. Apart from the CM, it carried his Principal Secretary S Subramanyam and Chief Security Officer A S C Wesley, heads for Chitoor district.

The chopper was being piloted by Group Captain SK Bhatia with co-pilot Captain MS Reddy. Both are fully qualified and well experienced to handle the helicopter, the chief secretary said.

At 9.35am, it lost contact while possibly flying over Nallamala forest ranges, a stronghold of the Naxalites, in the Rayalaseema region.