Chopper carrying top Indian state official missing

AP News
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Posted: Apr 30, 2011 11:49 AM
Chopper carrying top Indian state official missing

A helicopter carrying the chief minister of the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh went missing Saturday in bad weather during what should have been a 75-minute flight, officials said.

Indian air force helicopters will resume their search at daylight Sunday after finding no trace of the missing aircraft in the rugged mountains where it lost radio contact, said the country's home secretary, G.K. Pillai.

Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu _ the state's highest elected official _ had been traveling with two other passengers and two pilots from the Buddhist mountain retreat of Tawang to the state capital of Itanagar. Skies were clear as the helicopter took off, but conditions became cloudy and rainy as it neared the Sella Pass over the Himalayas.

There was confusion about the helicopter's fate Saturday as some officials quoting local sources said it had been forced by bad weather to land in a forest in the neighboring country of Bhutan.

However, Bhutan's police chief said no Indian helicopters had landed in the country. "We have alerted our police and local villagers to look for any helicopter making an emergency landing in Bhutan," but there had been no sightings, Kitshu Namgyal said by telephone from the country's capital of Thimphu.

Khandu, 56, a former Indian army intelligence official, was elected in 2007 as chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, which lies on the border with China.