New Delhi/Itanagar/Bareilly, May 1 (ANI): Two Sukhoi aircraft and about 30 other Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft have been deployed to search for missing Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu.
The Sukhoi jets took off from the Indian Air Force base in Bareilly this morning, a private television channel reported. The IAF has completed two sorties of the area, and has begun a third sortie.
Though some Arunachal Pradesh Government officials have said the chopper has made an emergency landing in Bhutan, the Bhutanese Government has said that no such emergency landing has been made.
External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna has reportedly spoken to his Bhutanese counterpart Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering and requested him to provide assistance in the search and rescue effort.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has also deployed two satellites to search for the missing chopper.
ISRO sources said they would be in a position to give some details late on Sunday afternoon after reviewing the satellite pictures after noon. The two ISRO satellites will be deployed between 10.30 a.m. and noon.
The search operation is being conducted under the supervision of the commander of the Army 4 Corp. About 30 army columns, besides paramilitaries are conducting the search operations on the Indian side. The Indian Air Force is backing them.
Bhutanese forces are moving to the east of their country to meet up with their Indian counterparts and join in the search operation.
Over one thousand villagers living along the Arunachal Pradesh-Bhutan border fanned out early on Sunday morning to search for the missing helicopter.
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 missing Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter that took off from Tawang at 9.50 a.m. on Saturday 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)