Images taken by two Su30 aircraft have detected ‘an aircraft-like something’ in an area in Bhutan on which aerial search is focusing to locate the helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others which went missing on Saturday.
“Su30s with recee pods have managed to pick up something which has been given for assessment. What they have found is something like an aircraft,” Eastern Air Command Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Air Marshal K.K. Nohwar said on Monday.
The helicopters are searching with the inputs, he said.
“The helicopters have made attempts to go to certain areas in Bhutan. Whenever the weather is clearing, the helicopters are being pressed into service,” Mr. Nohwar said.
He said inputs also came from ISRO on three possible sites.
“Information coming from villagers say they have heard or saw something and are being collated with other inputs and based on that search is being conducted,” he said.
Stating that the weather has been hindering the aerial search, the Air Marshal said aircraft are on stand-by in Guwahati, Tawang and Tezpur for search operations.
Asked about the possibility of sabotage, Nohwar said “I don’t think so. Let’s not jump the gun and talk about all these things... it is too early to say about the reason. But weather could be one of the causes.”
Two IAF MI 17 choppers took off from Tawang to search for the four-seater, single-engine Pawan Hans helicopter chopper that went missing 20 minutes after take off from Tawang on Saturday morning.
Besides Mr. Khandu, others on board were pilots Captain J S Babbar, Captain T S Mamik, Khandu’s security officer Yeshi Choddak and Yeshi Lhamu, sister of Tawang MLA Tsewang Dhondup.
Areas on the Bhutan side were also being searched, state government spokesman Jarbom Gamlin said.
A 30-member team of volunteers from the area from where the chopper went missing, began a search in the eastern part of the Himalayan kingdom, he said.
The ITBP deployed six columns comprising 150 personnel on the ground, police sources said.
The IAF had to suspend the search operations yesterday because of poor weather conditions.
A report from Shillong quoting IAF sources said the two Mi17s that flew from Tawang have returned after a couple of hours without sighting the chopper.
Presently, all the Air Force helicopters engaged in the search operation are grounded due to bad weather, the sources said.
Two MI17 choppers have completed eight sorties since morning and more choppers are likely to be pressed for aerial search operations, a report from Itanagar quoting Tezpur-based Defence Spokesman Colonel Joshi said.
More choppers have been positioned in Tezpur and Guwahati for use when required, he said.
A report from Tawang said that 25-member teams comprising people from Khandu’s constituency have spread into the nearby areas in search of the missing chopper.
A 20-member team led by Lok Sabha member Takam Sanjoy and Assam Forest Minister Rokibul Hussain moved to Bomdila in West Kameng district this morning with adequate stock of food items and medicines to monitor the search operation, official sources said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Buddhist monks of Tawang Monastery along with others from various Buddhist Gompas across the state have arranged special prayers for the safe return of the Chief Minister and the four others in the chopper.