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September 4, 2009

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India powerful politician dies in copter crash

A POWERFUL Indian politician and four other people were killed when their helicopter crashed in the dense jungles of southern India during a pounding rainstorm, the government announced yesterday.
The helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh state Chief Minister Y.S.R. Reddy lost contact with air traffic controllers on Wednesday morning as heavy rain pelted the region, setting off a frantic 24-hour search operation involving the army, air force and police.
Yesterday morning, commandoes and police finally reached the site of the crash after hacking through the jungles and found the bodies of all five people who had been on the aircraft, including 60-year-old Reddy.
"We are in deep mourning. We have a deep sense of grief, shock and loss at the passing away of the chief minister, and a tall leader of the Congress Party," Home Minister P. Chidambaram said.
Rescue teams crossing dense jungle and hilly terrain on foot reached the crash site on a hill 8 kilometers from the nearest village and about 275 kilometers south of the state capital, Hyderabad.
The helicopter took off from Hyderabad and lost contact with air traffic controllers about 45 minutes into the flight.
Commandos who reached the crash site after a daylong search in incessant rain found the five charred bodies and the mangled remains of the helicopter, Chidambaram said.
Reddy, who was surveying drought conditions in some of the remote parts of the state, was accompanied by a bodyguard, an aide and two pilots.
He belonged to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's ruling Congress Party, and won a second term in office in May.
A devout Christian in Hindu-majority India, Reddy worked his way into the Congress leadership over the past three decades by taking up the cause of poor farmers and landless laborers.
"This is a huge loss for the Congress Party," said Jayanti Natarajan, a Congress spokeswoman in New Delhi.
Rebels have been fighting for more than three decades in several Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh, demanding land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor.


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