Itanagar: A helicopter carrying Tirap Deputy Commissioner Kamlesh Kumar Joshi, two pilots and a crew member went missing on Tuesday in Arunachal Pradesh's Tirap district, officials said.
Chief Minister Nabam Tuki expressed concern over the incident and asked officials to intensify the search for the chopper after it remained untraced for hours.
The Pawan Hans helicopter went missing around 11.15 a.m. It took off from Khonsa at 10.15 a.m. for Longding. It lost communication with the ground after the Air Traffic Control in Chabua contacted the pilot five minutes after departure.
The helicopter was on a routine sortie to Longding, and was to return to Mohanbari airport in Assam's Dibrugarh city when contact was lost.
The Air Traffic Control received the last signal from the chopper near Deomali in Tirap, officials said.
"Till 6 p.m., we were not been able to locate the missing helicopter despite a rescue team making all-out efforts to trace it throughout the day," Arunachal Pradesh chief secretary Ramesh Negi told IANS over phone.
He said rescue teams of the Indian Air Force, Indian Army, police, as well as paramilitary troopers have been focusing their search mission in Tirap in the southern part of Arunachal Pradesh.
"Reports said the villagers heard a powerful blast in the region," Negi said.
An IAF spokesman said the search operation was suspended due to bad weather and would resume on Wednesday morning.
"We suspended our rescue and search operations for the day due to bad weather but we will resume it tomorrow (Wednesday) morning again," IAF spokesman Amit Mahajan told IANS.
Chief Minister Tuki convened an emergency meeting with Home Minister Tanga Byaling, Civil Aviation Minister Thangwan Wangham, Chief Secretary Negi, Director General of Police S. Nithianandam and the legislators of Tirap, Changlang and Longding.
In 2011, then Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu and four other people died after their Pawan Hans chopper crashed at a remote location in the state.
A few days later, another helicopter crashed while landing in Tawang, killing 16 people.
Following the crashes, commercial chopper services were stopped in the state till 2013 when Pawan Hans restarted service in Arunachal Pradesh and other parts of the region.
Pawan Hans Helicopter Services Limited (PHHL) has been operating chopper services across Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura and daily Guwahati-Tawang services for over 15 years. It is one of the major lifelines in landlocked Arunachal Pradesh.