Arunachal chief minister may be dead: Chidambaram

May 4th, 2011 - 5:55 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, May 4 (IANS) Amid continuing suspense about Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, citing unofficial reports, said Wednesday, some 100 hours after he went missing, that he may have died in a helicopter crash.

Chidambaram said that no government or army official involved in the rescue operation had been able to reach the site where Khandu’s helicopter is presumed to have crashed.

He said the rescue team had spotted what appeared to be a crashed helicopter in an area between Kyela and Lobotang in Tawang district at an altitude of 4,900 metres (16,076 feet).

He said some villagers, who “reportedly have reached the site on foot”, communicated to the police control room in Itanagar that they “have identified two bodies and three bodies are charred beyond recognition”.

“Although communication is poor, in three or four calls, they have been able to communicate (this),” he said. “No official of the government or the army involved in this has reached the site.”

“But from what I can piece together, assuming that the reports given by the villagers are by and large true, I am afraid the news is grim and sad,” he said, hinting that Khandu may be dead.

He said the government was trying to land another Cheetah helicopter in Lobotang, from where the team will proceed on foot to cover the distance of five to six km to the site.

“It may take several hours before officials of the government or the army are able to reach the site,” he said.

He said the progress “is slower than we thought because of the terrain”, adding that a Cheetah helicopter has noticed the debris of the crashed helicopter. “It has also been able to notice that some bodies are lying there.”

The Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter carrying the chief minister and four others went missing Saturday morning, 20 minutes after it took off as it flew over the Sela Pass along the Chinese border at an altitude of 13,700 feet.

The chopper had two pilots and three passengers on board, including the chief minister and his personal security officer. Congress legislator Tsewang Dhondup’s younger sister, Yeshmi Lamu, was also travelling in the helicopter for a medical check-up in Itanagar.

The Arunachal Pradesh government had announced a cash reward of Rs.1 million to anyone who could provide information about the missing helicopter.

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