Elite commandos armed with night vision equipment joined 2,000-odd security forces, six choppers and Sukhoi jets to scour a large swathe of forests over which a helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy went missing on Wednesday.
<b1>There was no success, however, from what could be India’s biggest ever rescue and search operation for a VIP — a man who was credited much for the Congress party’s surprise return to power in 2004 and a repeat of that victory in 2009.
“No good news yet … we are keeping our fingers crossed,” Home Minister P Chidambaram said in New Delhi.
Reddy, 60, took off in a Bell 430 helicopter from Hydrabad’s old Begumpet Airport at 8.38 am for a village in Andhra Pradesh’s southern Chittoor district, but 35 minutes into the flight the chopper lost contact with the air traffic controller.
At the time, it was flying at a height of about 1.25 km from the ground and was 140 kilometers away from Hyderabad, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said.
Officials said bad weather might have forced the pilot to take a detour and fly over the Nallamala forests that span the districts of Kurnool, Prakasam and Kadapa, and are considered to have presence of Naxals.
Five helicopters and a Dornier aircraft searched the area, but met with no success until darkness set in. They will resume operations at the break of dawn, said Union Home Secretary GK Pillai.
Eight hundred police and paramilitary forces were continuing the search through the night, said Mukesh Meena, Collector, Kurnool district.
Prayers were held across the state for Reddy, who has sustained his popularity in the state with a wide array of subsidy and welfare plans for the poor.
(with Aasheesh Sharma, aloke Tikku in New Delhi)