Rescue teams fail to trace missing chopper, announces minister

Last Updated: Tue, May 03, 2011 20:39 hrs

Itanagar: Amid palpable anger and anguish amongst people, authorities on Tuesday announced that rescue teams had been unable to trace the helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others.

The Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter carrying the five went missing after it took off from Tawang at 9.50 a.m. 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.

'So far, there is no news. Rescue teams were unable to locate the missing helicopter although the operations, carried out by 3,000 army, police, and paramilitary troopers, have been focusing their search mission in seven locations, including one in Bhutan,' central minister V. Narayanasamy told journalists here.

Rescue teams failed to get any clues or debris in two of the seven probable locations, while two of the spots could only be reached late Tuesday.

'Heavy snowfall and rains, coupled with poor visibility have been greatly hampering the rescue operation with the troops unable to venture with speed,' the minister said.

'One probable location is Nagarjiji in West Kameng district and another site is in Potujiji on the Bhutan side. Our teams would reach the two places late Tuesday if everything goes according to plans.'

Thirty-eight commandos of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have also been pressed into service.

'More than 1,000 civilians are also engaged in the search operation,' the minister said.

'The search operation would continue till we are able to find some definite clue.'

Arunachal Pradesh MP Takam Sanjay, leading the search and rescue operation in the West Kameng district, said they had sought an additional 2,000 army soldiers for the search mission.

'The area is rugged and vast and hence we need more than 2,000 more army soldiers and a request to this effect has already been sent to the central government,' Sanjay said.

With the search yielding no results, locals are getting restive.

'If India is not capable of tracing the helicopter they should not hesitate to take China's help so that we could get technological support from them in locating the chopper,' Takam Tatung, president of the All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union, told IANS.

Anger is palpable among local tribal people in this frontier mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh, bordering China, Myanmar and Bhutan.

'Everybody knows the terrain is rough and mountainous and it rains heavily most of the time, but is that an excuse? What would India do if China once again comes and attacks us,' questioned Bamang Tago, leader of the Arunachal Citizens Rights.

Beijing in 2003 gave up its territorial claim over the Indian state of Sikkim but still holds on to its stand that nearly all of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to it.

The mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030-km unfenced border with China. The two countries fought a bitter border war in 1962 with Chinese troops advancing halfway into the northeastern state.

'It is a shame on the Indian government that they were unable to locate the helicopter even after four days. Now with Osama bin Laden's death, the entire Indian government is busy giving reactions and has simply forgotten about our chief minister,' said another angry community leader Likha Maj.

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