Search for Arunachal chief minister enters fifth day

May 4th, 2011 - 9:54 am ICT by IANS  

ISRO Itanagar, May 4 (IANS) Six Indian Air Force helicopters Wednesday began an aerial survey along the dizzy heights of Sela Pass in Arunachal Pradesh even as the search by more than 4,000 army, paramilitary troopers, and civilians for the missing chopper carrying Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu entered its fifth day.

“Efforts are on but so far we have not got any definite clues about the missing helicopter,” Arunachal Pradesh Home Minister Tako Dabi told IANS.

Six helicopters - two each of the Mi-17, Cheetah, and Cheetak - took off from bases in Tawang and Tezpur in Assam at 5.05 a.m. Wednesday for rescue and search mission, IAF spokesperson Ranjeeb Sahoo said.

The Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter carrying the chief minister and four others 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 perched at an altitude of 13,700 feet.

Authorities had identified seven probable locations — six in Arunachal and one inside Bhutan, based on satellite images by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

Rescue teams failed to get any clues or debris in two of the seven probable locations.

“Heavy snowfall and rains, coupled with poor visibility has 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 in Bhutan side. Efforts are on by rescue teams to reach the two locations soon.”

Meanwhile, 38 commandos of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have also been pressed into service.

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

“The area is rugged and vast and hence we need 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 and are planning holding protest meetings to demonstrate their anger against the central government.

“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,” said Takam Tatung, president of the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union.

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 with the two countries fighting a bitter border war in 1962 with Chinese troops advancing half way 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 Laden’s death, the entire Indian government is busy giving reactions and have simply forgotten about our chief minister,” said Likha Maj, an angry community leader .

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

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