Army helicopter goes missing in north Sikkim

Gangtok: An army helicopter with two pilots and two soldiers on board went missing on Thursday during routine training exercise while flying over north Sikkim near the Chinese border with inclement weather stalling search operations.

The Advance Light Helicopter `Dhruv` of Army Aviation Corps had taken off from the Sewak Road Base in Siliguri in West Bengal, from where the army conducts its routine training exercise to Sikkim`s borders with China, at 10.30 am, defence sources here said.

It lost radio contact around 11.30 am, they said.

The chopper went down about 15,000 feet above ground near the Yumisamdong area which is now under a thick blanket of snow and covered with dense forest.

The area is around 15 km above above Lachung village in north Sikkim.

The army launched a massive search operation but after about five hours, the search was postponed due to inclement weather.

In view of the heavy snow in the area and inaccessible terrain, the aerial search is the only option to trace the chopper, the sources said.

The Base is under the 33 Corps Headquarters based in Siliguri.

Dhruv is an indigenously-developed helicopter inducted in the army only recently.

The routine training exercise of the Army is a regular affair and flights are launched from the army helipad at Bagdogra and go into `undisclosed` territory landing in bases which are `unidentified`.

The sources ruled out the possibility of the chopper being shot down since international border rules are always maintained by both sides.