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High anxiety: Andhra CM goes missing in jungle area

By S A Hasan in Hyderabad with bureau reports
Last updated on: September 02, 2009 17:07 IST
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The whereabouts of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhar Reddy remain unknown, six and a half hours after his helicopter went missing over the deep forest areas in the southern region of the state.

Finance Minister K Rosaiah told a news conference late on Wednesday afternoon that there was no word yet from any quarter on the fate of the missing helicopter as well as the chief minister and others who had accompanied him on the visit to Chittoor district on Wednesday morning.

Addressing a news conference in the state capital, Rosiah said: "All state and central forces are on alert. At the moment, we are still tracing the location of the missing chopper, which has landed in the forests in the Chitoor-Nellore area. We are finding a way to reach the place."

He appealed to the people in the forest, tribal and remote areas in Kurnool, Mahbubnagar, Nalgonda, Krishna, Prakasam and Chittoor districts to fan out into the interior areas and try to locate the helicopter and the chief minister. He pleaded with the people to do so before the sunset. He said that owing to inclement weather, strong winds and heavy rains, it was not possible to trace out the helicopter to far.

Dismissing all the media reports about the CM being "safe" and having been "located" as speculation, he appealed to the media to desist from airing speculative and "imaginative" reports on the issue.

Rosaiah said the chief minister, along with an official and his chief security officer, went in a twin-engined government-owned helicopter at 8.35 am on the way to Chittoor district to participate in local programmes there. However, the helicopter lost control with the air traffic control at 9.35 am.

Soon after, the state authorities alerted the Union home ministry, defence ministry, civil aviation and other central authorities. The state officials also got in touch with the Prime Minister's Office as well as United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Two helicopters were immediately sent from Hakimpet Indian Air Force station and three from the IAF station at Bangalore on search and rescue mission. Similarly, another government helicopter took off from Hyderabad and a private helicopter was sent from Krishnapatnam port in the afternoon. However, two IAF helicoters returned to Hakimpet due to inclement weather, strong winds and heavy rains.

The CM's chopper was said to have landed in the middle of the thick Nallamalla forest, said to be affected by Maoist activities. The chief minister's office confirmed receiving a message of the emergency landing of the chopper, but nothing thereafter. Till now, no one has confirmed Reddy's movements.

Maintaining that both the central and state governments were making all-out efforts to trace the chief minister and the missing helicopter, he asked the police, revenue and forest personnel as well as the villagers to go into the interior areas to search for the missing helicopter and the CM. If they get any definite clues or reliable information on the whereabouts, they should pass on the same to the nearest police station. Even the Greyhounds (anti-naxalite) commandos have been pressed into service in the remote forest areas of Nallamala on search operations.

Moreover, the IAF is pressing into service all-weather helicopters as well as unmanned aircraft to help in the search operations.

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S A Hasan in Hyderabad with bureau reports