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Massive rescue operation on to trace Andhra Pradesh CM’s chopper

From remote sensing satellites, IAF’s Sukhoi-30 jet and military helicopters to special commandos and army soldiers a mission of a huge magnitude was underway tonight to trace the missing helicopter with Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy on board.

And no possible rescue tool was left out with local villagers even provided with torches as the search covered six districts most of it in Nallamala forests that used to be dominated by Naxals. Tribal teams, forest and revenue officials were also scouring the area.

ISRO’s Radar Imaging Satellite had been pressed into service and will click photographs of a area on the route of the helicopter while the IAF pressed into service a Su-30MKI fighter aircraft with synthetic aperture radar for high-resolution ground mapping.

The radar of the Sukhoi aircraft which can sweep the six districts in a jiffy can help in finding out if anything is amiss. And two mid-air refuelling aircraft will be in service so that the Sukhoi does not have to go their base.

The air-to-air refuelling will help the Sukhoi to continue its search for longer hours as the aircraft is capable of operating day and night. The Sukhois have an endurance level of three to four hours of continuous flying, but it could be enhanced to about 10 hours at a stretch with refuelling.

Several boats were also scouring River Krishna. Chief Secretary P Ramakanth Reddy said the state government is also trying to seek help of the US Defence department to have real-time satellite imagery of the area where the Bell-430 helicopter went missing.

Eleven choopers including four from the IAF were also pressed into service.

The Indian Army has deployed over 250 personnel with night vision devices to carry out search operations in the Nallamala forest area.

“We have deployed two columns and one ghatak platoon in the area for searching the Chief Minister. Our troops are equipped with night vision devices such as goggles and hand held thermal imagers,” Army officials said in New Delhi.

“Our troops will focus on searching for the chopper in the Nallamalla forest area in the night also with the help of their equipment,” they added.

The troops, officials said, are from the infantry division based in the area.

About 500 CRPF personnel were deployed for a combing operation in naxal-affected dense forests in the Kurnool area over which the Bell helicopter may have passed, Home Ministry officials said in New Delhi.

The CRPF personnel will be called from neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Orissa, the officials said adding the first batch of these men is expected to reach soon.

The AP government has also rushed hundreds of ‘Greyhounds’ or special commandoes used to junge terrain to the area.

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