Thursday, 3 September 2009

YSR chopper goes missing: Thick forests, seasonal streams, slushy terrain and dangerous wildlife make search operations difficult

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 2: The area, where the helicopter carrying Chief Minister
YS Rajasekhar Reddy went missing, is a rugged and hilly terrain with two
massive water bodies and a continuous green canopy of thickets of Nallamala
forests. It forms part of Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Sanctuary, most of which is
inaccessible and inhabited by wild animals.

According to sources, the helicopter that left Shamshabad airport on way to
Chittoor was last seen hovering over Atmakur area in Kurnool district.
Before that it was reportedly noticed at Iskala village in Pamulapadu block in
the same district.

If the reports are to be believed, the helicopter must have crossed the
Srisailam reservoir and its vast expanse of water which extends to over 200
sq km, almost touching Kurnool city. Aviation authorities point out that the
helicopter lost contact with the ATC in Shamshabad and Chennai when it
was 60 nautical miles away from the Hyderabad airport. This roughtly puts
the helicopter amidst the Nallamala forests, which extend over about 6,000 sq km.

There's another water body, Velugodu reservoir, which is also vast in
expanse, just after crossing the Srisailam reservoir. In between there's a thick
forest, so thick at some points that even sunrays cannot penetrate. The
Nallamala forests has deep valleys and gorges and steep climbs, which make
ordinary people difficult to traverse.

The Nallamala forests cover the five districts of Prakasam, Kurnool,
Mahbubnagar and Guntur. The rescue operations are not easy during this part
of the year because of heavy growth of vegetation thanks to monsoon. The
only motorable road in the Nallamala forests runs from Atchampet to
Srisailam town where it bifurcates, one leading to Nandyal in Kurnool
district and another to Macharla in Guntur district.

If the helicopter had landed in the valley or on a hilly ghat, it would take a
long time for the inmates to reach the nearest point to communicate with the
rest of the world, or to waive down a motor vehicle passing through the road.

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