Chopper missing in ultra-infested area of Arunachal

Chopper missing in ultra-infested area of Arunachal

A helicopter went missing in Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday morning, triggering massive aerial and on-foot search operations.

The Pawan Hans chopper with four people, including Tirap district deputy commissioner Kamalesh Kumar Joshi, went missing after it took off from Khonsa, Tirap's district headquarters, on the Myanmar border. It was still missing at the time of the filing of this report.

The Dauphin twin-engine chopper was on a routine flight, and had on board two pilots and a crew member, besides Joshi, when it lost contact with the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) at Mohanbari airport in the Dibrugarh district of Assam on at 11:20 am.
It went missing between the Tirap and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh.

Joshi had boarded the chopper from Khonsa at 10:15 am. The deputy commissioners of both Longding and Changlang — where the chopper was headed — would have joined him and they would have then flown to Mohanbari to catch a New Delhi-bound evening flight to attend a Minister of Home Affairs meeting.

Arunachal government sources told Deccan Herald residents in some remote villages heard an explosion. There were also reports of a “helicopter-like object” being sighted in the dense jungle near the Deomali area of Tirap.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki convened an emergency high-level meeting with the home minister, civil aviation minister, chief secretary, DGP and legislators of Tirap, Changlang and Longding.

A massive search operation was launched soon. Two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters were scrambled from Mohanbari for reconnaissance of the lost chopper's path.

However, the search was called off around 4 pm due to low visibility and inclement weather in the area. The IAF said it would resume on Wednesday morning.

Army and Assam Rifles columns have started combing the hills.  As the report of the missing chopper reached state capital, the entire establishment went into a tizzy, as Tirap, Changlang and Longding are remote districts infested by militants. The area where the chopper last had contact is close to the Myanmar border. So the search operation would take time, said a senior Arunachal government official.

Officials are also not ruling out the possibility of a militant attack on the chopper as the area is a hotbed of the NSCN(K), a group known to possess rocket-launchers and rocket-propelled grenades, which can target very-low-flying choppers.

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