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Bhutan denies landing of Arunachal CM's chopper

Apr 30, 2011 01:16 PM IST India India

New Delhi: Adding confusion to the whereabouts of the chopper carrying Arunachal Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, Buthan government has said that they have no information of any chopper landing in Bhutan.

The Bhutan government under the supervision of Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley and Chief of Army Staff has lauched a coordinated search operation in all seven border districts of Arunachal Pradesh.

Chief Minister's office said that Khandu's helicopter had to make an emergency landing due to technical snag near Tawang but inside Bhutanese territory and the CM was safe.

"Arunachal CM's chopper made an emergency landing in Bhutan. He is safe," said Kiran Rijuju, advisor to Arunachal CM.

"The chopper landed safely at Datorijo. Everybody on board is safe," said Arunachal Pradesh Chief secretary.

"Arunachal chief minister's chopper has landed safely and he is going to board a flight back to Itanagar," said Dorjee Khandu spokesperson Jambe Shiring.

Two other passengers accompanying the Chief Minister and two crew members of the Pawan Hans Eurocopter B3 craft are also safe, the CM's office said.

Defence sources in Kolkata said the helicopter landed in Daporijo.

The other passengers are Lamu, a woman relative of the Chief Minister, his security officer Choddak, Captain Babbar and Captain Manik.

Khandu had taken off from Tawang at 9:56 am and was to land at Itanagar at 11:30 am by the chartered Pawan Hans helicopter. Tawang is about 200 kms from here.

The chopper was last in communication with the base when it was overflying Sela Pass, 20 minutes after taking off from Tawang, and all communications were lost after that.

With the losing of communication, there was fear all around that the chopper could have met with some accident.

Army and the Indian Air Force were alerted and helicopters were pressed into service for search and rescue operations in Sela Pass area.

Defence Ministry spokesman in Kolkata Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani said despite inclement weather, two Cheetah helicopters were pressed into service from Tezpur in Assam for search and rescue operations.

The request for help reached the air force at 1230 hours and the two helicopters took off within 40 minutes.

56-year-old Khandu, who had served in the intelligence wing of the Indian Army, was sworn on April 9, 2007 as the fifth chief minister of the state, replacing Gegong Apang.

On April 19, a Pawan Hans helicopter crashed in the mountains of Tawang, bordering Tibet, killing all 17 people on board. The helicopter crashed not far away from the helipad and the DGCA had found that proper fire-fighting facilities could have saved lives.

In the other incident, an army helicopter crashed near Gangtok killing four occupants on board.

(With additional information from PTI)

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