ISRO images throw up clues to missing chopper (Third Lead)

May 2nd, 2011 - 10:14 pm ICT by IANS  

ISRO Itanagar, May 2 (IANS) The first possible clues to the missing helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu emerged with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Monday claiming to have located metallic objects at a place called Nagarjiji near the Sela Pass in Tawang district.

“According to the ISRO radar findings, some bright spots, metallic substances, have been sighted at a place called Nagarjiji and details of what exactly it is could be ascertained only when the rescue and search teams reach the spot,” union Parliamentary Affairs Minister V. Narayanasamy told journalists.

Rescue teams would, however, be able to reach the spot, at a height of 13,700 feet, only around 2 p.m. Tuesday with the terrain hilly and almost inaccessible.

“Teams have already set out for the area, but since the terrain is hostile they should be able to reach only by 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday,” the minister said.

“We don’t know if that is the wreckage or anything at this point in time until and unless the search teams reaches there,” Jarbom Gamlin, state power minister, said.

Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force (IAF) Monday said images taken by two Sukhoi aircraft have detected “an aircraft-like something” in an area in Bhutan.

Air Marshal K.K. Nohwar, chief of the IAF’s Eastern Air Command, told journalists in Shillong: “Sukhoi-30s with recce pods and ISRO have managed to pick up something which has been given for assessment. The data (from Sukhoi and ISRO) is being corroborated with the ground situation.”

The Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter carrying the 56-year-old Khandu and four others went missing Saturday morning after it took off from Tawang at 9.50 a.m, and has remained untraced for the third day Monday. 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.

The Crisis Management Team monitoring the rescue and search operation here earlier in the day identified three possible locations where the helicopter might have landed or crashed - Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary and Nagajen in the state’s West Kameng district, and the small village of Mobi in Trashiyangtse district of Bhutan.

All three locations border Tawang district.

Earlier, four Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed into service Monday for conducting aerial surveys. Two Mi-17 helicopters took off from Tawang and two Cheetak helicopters flew from Tezpur in Assam.

Bad weather, however, led the aerial survey to be abandoned for the day after about two hours of flying.

“We are hoping against hope now to get some news about the helicopter and its occupants. There are prayers being held in all the Buddhist monasteries for some good news,” Congress MLA from Tawang Tsewang Dhondup said.

Yeshmi Lamu, the lone woman occupant in the helicopter is the younger sister of Dhondhup.

“She was in the helicopter with the chief minister for a medical checkup in Itanagar,” Dhondhup said.

The incident comes just days after another Pawan Hans helicopter crashed in Tawang April 19, killing 17 people and injuring six.

The Pawan Hans Helicopter Services Limited (PHHL) has been operating five helicopters across Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura and daily Guwahati-Tawang services for the past nine years. It is one of the major lifelines of the landlocked Arunachal Pradesh.

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