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May 02, 2011 at 02:21pm IST

48 hours and still no trace of Arunachal CM

New Delhi: It's been almost 48 hours and still no trace of the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Dorjee Khandu. A massive search continues for the chief minister's chopper that has four others on board as well.

Rescue operations began on Saturday morning, hours after the ATC lost control with the Pawan Hans chopper. SSB and ITBP personnel have now joined the Army-Air Force led search operation.

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Two MI-17s and two Sukhoi 30s are also scanning the area. Their data will be analysed for further clues.

External affairs minister SM Krishna spoke to his Bhutanese counterpart and sought assistance as the area is close to the Bhutan border. Bhutanese teams are looking for Dorjee Khandu's chopper in seven border districts.

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The Bhutanse government has deployed 15 additional search teams but bad weather is hampering the efforts. The last contact with the Pawan Hans helicopter was made 20 minutes after its take off on Saturday morning.

Search for Khandu's helicopter focusses on three areas

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Braving inclement weather, security forces on Monday focused their search operations on three pin-pointed locations along the Indo-Bhutan border to

trace the helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others.

The ground and aerial search was stepped up at the Eaglenest Bird Sanctuary and Nagajan area in West Kameng district bordering Tawang besides Mobi village in Tashi Yangshi district of neighbouring Bhutan, CMO sources said.

The narrowing down of the search was based on inputs received from satellite mapping by ISRO and aerial mapping by two Sukhois from Bareilly yesterday, they said.

Defence spokesman based at 4 corps in Tezpur, Colonel Joshi, said that 35 columns of Army including six ITBP and three SSB were on the search and rescue operations which started at around 6.15 am despite bad weather.

"Hard weather condition are creating obstacles in aerial search operations, but around 4000 rescuers including personnel from Army, SSB, ITBP and state police are on the job," state government spokesman Jarbom Gamlin told PTI.

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 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, 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 on Sunday because of poor weather conditions.

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