Joint ops resumed to locate missing chopper

Itanagar: The Army, SSB, ITBP and the state police resumed their joint operation this morning to locate a missing chopper carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others.

While inclement weather is preventing the two IAF choppers being positioned at Tezpur and Guwahati to carry out search and rescue operations, ground search is on along the India-Bhutan border in the state, sources at the CMO and police headquarters here told PTI.

Search teams from neighbouring Bhutan have also launched rescue operation in seven districts of that country, sources said.

The four-seater single-engine Pawan Hans helicopter AS-B350-B-3 went missing after 20 minutes of its take off from Tawang at 9.56 am yesterday with five on board including crew members Captain J S Babbar, Captain T S Mamik, Khandu`s security officer Yeshi Choddak and Yeshi Lhamu, sister of Tawang MLA Tsewang Dhondup.

The chopper was to land at Itanagar at about 11.30 am.

The Guwahati air traffic control had reportedly received the last radio communication from the chopper near Sela Pass area, 20 minutes after take off from Tawang.

The state government has set up a crisis management cell with principal secretary to CM Yeshi Tsering, civil aviation commissioner Hage Khoda, home secretary A K Srivastav, IGP SBK Singh, DIGP (West) Robin Hibu, DIG (Intelligence) Anil Shukla, City DC Pawan Kumar Sain and SP Apang Tamut as its members.

The committee will be monitoring the situation under the overall guidance and supervision of Chief Secretary Tabam Bam.

Conflicting reports emerged throughout the day yesterday over the disappearance of the chopper with initial reports claiming that the chopper had landed safely at Eastern Bhutan. However, later in the evening there were denials from all concerned saying the helicopter had not been located and search operation was on.

To locate the chopper, the Army and Air Force had launched search operations yesterday, but was called off in the evening due to poor visibility.

Meanwhile, two Chetak helicopters and an IAF`s MI7 have also been pressed into search operations.

At Assam`s Tezpur air force base, a Sukhoi aircraft has been kept on standby to assist any rescue work, official sources said.