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Chopper with Arunachal chief minister missing

Saturday April 30, 2011 08:02:10 PM, IANS

Itanagar: Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of a helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu with authorities in Bhutan denying earlier official claims that it had landed there amid rough weather.

The Eurocopter AS350 B3 helicopter owned by Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd took off from Tawang helipad near the border with China in the morning and was still untraceable till late evening, officials said.

"There is no confirmation of any news about the helicopter. There has been no contact with the five people on board, and we don't know the details as of now," MP Takam Sanjay told IANS.

Earlier, officials had come on record to say that the chopper had landed safely in Bhutan.

Around 2 p.m., Arunachal Governor Gen (retd) J.J. Singh and the chief secretary went on record and told the media that the chopper had landed safely with five passengers. The chief minister's adviser Kiren Rijiju confirmed the news and added that the chief minister was flying back to Guwahati.

However, authorities in Bhutan said that no Indian helicopter had landed in Bhutanese territory, adding to the confusion.

The Indian government is in touch with Bhutan to trace the missing chopper, Rijiju said.

"We are in constant touch with the central government at the highest level. Initially, we had been told the chopper has landed, but conflicting reports are coming in," Sanjay said.

The four-seater Pawan Hans chopper took off from Tawang helipad, perched at an altitude of 11,000 feet, for state capital Itanagar at 9.50 a.m. The helicopter was scheduled to land at at the Raj Bhavan helipad 11.30 a.m.

The helicopter lost radio contact 20 to 25 minutes after take-off when it was flying over the Sela Pass.

Besides two pilots and the chief minister, a personal security officer and a woman relative of Dorjee Khandu were on board.





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