Hyderabad, Sep.2 (ANI): Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary P. Ramakanth on Wednesday said that efforts are continuing to trace missing Chief Minister Y.S. Rajshekhar Reddy.
Addressing his second press conference of the day, Ramakanth said that search operations are being focused on the Nallamalla Forest Range, and added that the U.S. Defense Department and the Bangalore-based National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), which falls under the jurisdiction of ISRO, have been approached to provide satellite images and low-flying planes for the search. He said that the low-flying planes would be able to conduct a search of upto 250 kilometers and added that he expected some information from them within the hour.
State Finance Minister K.Rosiah said the search for Reddy, who has been missing for the last nine hours, is being conducted on a war footing with the help of the Central Government.
Chief Secretary Ramakanth said the Chief Minister's Bell chopper was last seen over Atmakur and Pandi Atmakur in Kurnool District at around 9.15 a.m. this morning. He also ruled out the use of an unmanned aircraft, saying it was presently in the North East and would take a long time to reach Andhra Pradesh.
The State Government said the police search party is nearing the Nallamalla forests.
At least 5000 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Indian Army personnel have been deployed to search for Reddy in the Nallamalla forest range, which is a Maoist stronghold.
State Government sources said the CRPF, the Army and Special Forces would conduct their search on foot through the night till the chief minister is traced.
The defence personnel would move along the same route that the chief minister took, notwithstanding the inclement weather.
Local villagers have also been provided with torches and other equipment to help in the search of an area that is dominated by Naxals.
A clearly worried Congress party held an emergency press briefing on the issue this afternoon.
Party spokesman Manish Tewari told media persons that it is an evolving situation that is being closely monitored by the Central and State Governments, besides the Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The party said that state government is handling a very sensitive situation as the copter is said to have landed somewhere in the forests between the three districts of Rayalseema, Prakasham and Chitoor.
Tewari said that every effort was being made to resolve the situation as quickly as possible given the limited time available.
Earlier, Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister K.Rosiah confirmed that the chopper carrying the Chief Minister had landed in a forest area and efforts were on to locate it.
Addressing a news conference in Hyderabad, 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."
Home Ministry officials said troops will carry out a massive combing operation in the dense forests of naxal-infested Kurnool district.
They said CRPF personnel will be called from neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Orissa, adding that the first batch of these men is expected to reach soon.
Chief Minister's Principal Secretary S Subramanyam and Chief Security Officer A S C Wesley and two pilots were also on board the missing twin-engined government helicopter.
Rosiah said that the Prime Minister's office as well as the offices of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Defence Minister A.K. Antony are being kept posted about the latest developments.
He also issued an appeal to the public to contribute to the search effort.
Reddy was on his way to Chitoor. The chopper took off at 8.45 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive here at 10.45 a.m, sources said.
The chopper was said to have landed in the middle of a thick forest, said to be affected by Maoist activities.
The Chief Minister's Office (CMO) confirmed receiving a message of the emergency landing of the chopper, but nothing thereafter.
Till now, no one has confirmed the movements of Reddy.
The Union Home Ministry is monitoring the search operations, as Kurnool is a Naxal affected area.
Air Traffic Control (ATC) sources said the chopper went off the radar due to heavy rains.
The CMO maintains there is no need to worry as the area has no mobile connectivity. (ANI)