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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 April 2024

Aerial search for two missing Arunachal mountaineers takes off

Tapi Mra, 37, and his assistant Niki Dao, 22, have been incommunicado since August 17

Umanand Jaiswal Guwahati Published 09.09.22, 12:18 AM
One of the Cheetah helicopters taking off for the search from Seppa on Thursday.

One of the Cheetah helicopters taking off for the search from Seppa on Thursday. The Telegraph

Aerial search for the two missing Arunachal Pradesh mountaineers took off on Thursday afternoon after a wait of nine days but the operation had to be aborted only after 45 minutes because of poor visibility and safety concerns.

Tapi Mra, 37, — the first mountaineer from Arunachal Pradesh to conquer Mount Everest — and his assistant Niki Dao, 22, have been incommunicado since August 17 when they were on a “challenging” expedition to Mount Kyarisatam (locally known as Mt. Chiumo), located along the Indo-China border at an altitude of 6890m, prompting the administration to plan a massive ground and aerial search operation.

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All hopes are “now resting” on the aerial search after the ground search and rescue mission was called off on Tuesday as incessant heavy rain made progress impossible, the administration said.

East Kameng deputy commissioner Pravimal Abhishek Polumatla told The Telegraph on Thursday that the helicopter recce started from Seppa, the district headquarters, at 1pm with two Cheetah choppers.

A  discussion before the aerial  search was launched.

A discussion before the aerial search was launched. The Telegraph

“A mountaineer who accompanied Tapi Mra on an expedition to Mount Kyarisatam in 2021 was on board to help the army identify the campsites,” the official, who is coordinating the search operation, said. However, the search did not last long because of inclement weather.

“It was a short recce of about 45 minutes due to extremely poor visibility owing to thick cloud cover and rain beyond Saria village. Hence, the choppers could not proceed further owing to safety concerns. Next attempt will be made tomorrow (Friday) morning again,” Abhishek said.

Saria is about an eight-hour trek from Seppa if the weather is clear. The place where the duo went incommunicado is a 12-13-day trek from Seppa.

The army provided four choppers for the aerial survey but they could be put to use only after nine days owing to inclement weather. The Met office has predicted improvement in the weather between September 8 and 12, a window of opportunity for the administration to find the mountaineers.

After calling off the foot-based search operation, the administration is focussing effectively on helicopter-based search and rescue operations.

Mra, who scaled Mount Everest in 2009, hails from Upper Subansiri district, while Dao is from East Kameng district.

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