Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), May 1 (ANI): Over one thousand villagers living along the Arunachal Pradesh-Bhutan border fanned out early on Sunday morning in search of a missing helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four other people.
Simultaneously, two Central Government ministers - V. Narayanswamy and Mukul Wasnik have been asked by the UPA Government to reach Itanagar to monitor the situation. When reports last came in, the two ministers had reached Guwahati, but were unable to proceed to Itanagar because of inclement weather.
Two MI-17 helicopters have also been deployed for the search operations. Only one of the two has been able to reach Itanagar.
The Indian Army and paramilitary troops have also been called in to help in the search and possible rescue effort. The Indian Government has made a request to neighbouring Bhutan to deploy Bhutanese troops in the search operation on its side of the Indo-Bhutan border.
Teams of the Indian Air Force (IAF) have resumed search operations this morning to locate the missing Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter that took off from Tawang at 9.50 a.m. on Saturday.
The copter lost communication with the ground after it flew past the Sela Pass along the Chinese border about 20 to 25 minutes later. The helicopter was scheduled to land in Itanagar at 11.30 a.m. on Saturday.
Khandu's spokesperson Jambey Tsering said: "The second day search operation has begun. The chief minister is still untraceable. Weather conditions have been deteriorating at various locations, but the search operation began early in the morning itself."
The state government has also set up a crisis management cell with Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Yeshi Tsering, Civil Aviation Commissioner Hage Khoda, Home Secretary A K Srivastav, Inspector General of Police S.B.K. Singh, Deputy Inspector General Police (West) Robin Hibu, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Intelligence) Anil Shukla, City Deputy Commissioner Pawan Kumar Sain and Superintendent of Police Apang Tamut as its members.
The committee will be monitoring the situation under the overall guidance and supervision of Chief Secretary Tabam Bam.
On Saturday, several media reports quoted Arunachal Pradesh Governor General (retired) J J Singh and Chief Secretary Bam as saying that the helicopter had landed safely somewhere in eastern Bhutan adjoining Tawang district and that the same helicopter was flying back to Guwahati with the chief minister on board.
Bhutan, however, later denied that any Indian helicopter had landed in its territory, but said a search operation was launched following request from New Delhi.
Apart from Khandu, the people on board included crew members Captain J S Babbar and Captain KS Malick, Khandu's security officer Yeshi Choddak and Yeshi Lamu, sister of Tawang legislator Tsewang Dhondup.
The missing helicopter, AS350 B-3, is a single-engine chopper. In case of an engine failure, there are very slim chances of the helicopter making a safe landing. (ANI)