Chopper carrying YSR goes missing, search on

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
A helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy went missing this morning and, as search operations continued till late this evening, there were concerns raised about his safety.

The helicopter, with Mr Reddy, 60, and four others on board, took off from the old Begumpet airport in Hyderabad at about 8.30 am and was scheduled to land in Chitoor at 10.40 am.

Air traffic control lost radio contact with the chopper around 9.35 am and after that there has been no contact with the Chief Minister and the officials accompanying him.

During the day, there was a fair bit of confusion with some reports suggesting that the helicopter had landed in Kurnool district, but these turned out to be incorrect later.

State Finance Minister K Rosaiah told a press conference that no contact had been made yet with the Chief Minister's helicopter. He said search and rescue operations were still on and that the State Government was in touch with the Central authorities.

A State Government official said the Union Home and Defence Ministries had been alerted about the crisis. He said seven helicopters, including Indian Air Force helicopters from Hyderabad and Bangalore, state government helicopters and a civilian chopper had been deployed for the search operations.

He said the State Government was also in touch with the Prime Minister's Office and the office of Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Delhi.

Some of the helicopters had to return to base because of inclement weather in the densely forested area where the Chief Minister's chopper had gone missing.

There was a sense of urgency to the search efforts because dusk was fast approaching.

The State Government appealed to people in the Kurnool and adjoining districts to help the authorities in the search operations and report to the nearest police station if they found any information.

"It is possible that because of the strong winds and heavy rains, it is possible it may have landed in some unfamiliar area. If you land in an unfamiliar forest area, getting out will be very difficult," the official said.

In Delhi, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari told newspersons that the party was in touch with the State Government as well as the party's state unit.

"It is an evolving sitution and they are doing everything they can to see a successful resolution of the crisis," he added.

The Chief Minister was planning to visit the Rachabanda area today meet people affected by the drought as part of a month-long tour programme to boost the confidence of the farmers.

According to some reports, his helicopter was over the thickly-forested Nallamalla hills, where it was raining heavily and visibility was low, when it went missing. The forests are infested with Naxalites.

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