SEPPA / TEZPUR- Aerial search for missing Arunachal Pradesh mountaineer Tapi Mra and his associate Niku Dao 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.
East Kameng deputy commissioner Pravimal Abhishek Polumatla told media on Thursday that the helicopter recce started from Seppa, the district headquarters, at 1pm with two Cheetah choppers.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 located in East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, along the Indo-China border at an altitude of 6890m, prompting the administration to plan a massive ground and aerial search operation.
Mra, who scaled Mount Everest in 2009, hails from Upper Subansiri district, while Dao is from East Kameng district.