Another 5 areas, including one in Bhutan being searched

Last Updated: Tue, May 03, 2011 14:53 hrs

Itanagar: Search operations have been mounted at five high altitude places in Arunchal Pradesh's West Kameng district and one area inside Bhutan on Tuesday to find the helicopter of Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others missing since Saturday.

The aerial search was called off for the day because of bad weather.

The five new areas including Putujiji in Bhutan, were being searched after those at Bangajanga and Nagarjiji in the same district drew a blank, Union Minister of State V Narayansamy told reporters here after a high-level review meeting of the Crisis Management Committee.

Earlier, infra-red images from IAF Su30s detected an 'aircraft-like' object at Nagajiji near Sela Pass.

Asked how helpful were the images received from ISRO and the aerial mapping by Sukhoi fighters from Bareilly, Narayansamy said they were much more clearer than the ones received from a Canadian satellite.

Quoting Major General Ojha, monitoring and supervising the rescue operation at Dirang, he said a 30-member National Disaster Responce Force team despatched by the home ministry has joined the 3000 personnel engaged in the ground operation with full support of the Bhutan government.

The ground search was being conducted by 3,000 personnel from Indian Army, ITBP and SSB with the assistance of the state police.

Narayansamy said, the rescuers are braving heavy rain, snowfall and hostile terrain to locate the single-engine 4-seater Pawan Hans helicopter that was last sighted at Sela Pass on Saturday.

Noting that Defence Minister A K Antony and Home Minister P Chidambaram have given clear instructions for all possible support in the search, he said, "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi have been constantly in touch as also union ministers Mukul Wasnik and B K Handique, AICC general secretary Dhaniram Shandil for updated information."

Asked if the party was considering appointment of a caretaker chief minister, Narayansamy said "the leadership is fully aware of the issue and act accordingly."

Asked why there was no signal from the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) in the chopper in case of emergency or crash landing, the minister said the help of its manufacturer, Eurocopter will be sought.

Questioned why China's help was not sought to locate the chopper, he said the crisis management committee has ruled out the possibility of its flying to that country as the hills there were much higher for it to cross.

"But if required that possibility could be explored," he said.

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