Itanagar, May 2: Braving inclement weather, security forces early this morning resumed a massive search operation along the Indo-Bhutan border to trace the helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others, which went missing on Saturday.
“Hard weather condition are creating obstacles in aerial search operation but around 4000 rescuers including personnel from Army, SSB, ITBP and state police are on the task,” state government spokesman Jarbom Gamlin told PTI.
Two IAF MI 17 choppers took off from Tawang in the morning to search the four-seater single-engine Pawan Hans helicopter chopper, which went missing 20 minutes after take off from Tawang on Saturday morning with Khandu along with 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 on board.
Search operations have also been launched on the Bhutan side, Gamlin said.
A 30-member team comprising volunteers from the area from where the chopper went missing, began a search this morning in the eastern part of the Himalayan Kingdom, he said.
The ITBP also pressed six columns consisting 150 personnel on ground search operation, police said.The IAF had to suspend the search operation yesterday due to bad weather condition.
An Air force chopper had taken off from Tawang for the search mission yesterday. It did two sorties but could not trace the chopper.
Due to inclement weather and rainfall in the valley, the chopper stationed at Guwahati and Tezpur could not be airborne.
Two Cheetah helicopters also tried to search the areas around Sella Pass yesterday but came back in the evening without any success.
Bhutanese authorities have given permission for launching air sorties in their territory to search the chopper, Gamlin said.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Delhi was also contacted and requested to provide suitable directions to NDRF battalion at Guwahati to help state police in its search and rescue operation in West Kameng District.
Accordingly one team of NDRF comprising 38 personnel with search and rescue equipment had already proceeded to Bomdila by road yesterday for assisting local police for further search and rescue operations.
Central ministers Mukul Wasnik and V Narayansami arrived here last morning to monitor the development. They convened a meeting with the Crisis management group constituted on Saturday.
“We have left no stone unturned and pressed all agencies for rescue operations. The Centre has been constantly monitoring the situation and necessary efforts are being taken”, Narayansami told reporters later in the evening.Khandu's helicopter was the third to get into trouble in the northeast in the last fortnight.
On April 19, a Pawan Hans helicopter crashed at Tawang heliport, bordering Tibet, killing 17 people and injuring six others on board.Again on April 21 an IAF chopper crashed near Gangtok killing four personnel on board.
Arunachal has witnessed a large number of air crashes.In November 1997, minister of state for defence N V N Somu, Major General Ramesh Nagpal and two others died when their Cheetah helicopter hit a 1,300 feet peak,40 kilometers from Tawang.
In May 2001, Arunachal Pradesh Education Minister Dera Natung and five others were killed when their Pawan Hans craft crash near Tawang because of poor visibility.
In 2009, an IAF AN-32 aircraft crashed at Mechunka killing all 13 defence personnel on board.
Eleven Air Force personnel and an Army Lieutenant Colonel were killed when an Air Force MI-17 helicopter crashed near the China frontier on November 19 last year a minute after take off. PTI