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India oil firm chopper goes missing with seven on board

© AFP/File | The aircraft was carrying five employees of India's state-run oil exploration arm ONGC and two pilots

NEW DELHI (AFP) - 

An Indian helicopter with seven people on board has gone missing off the coast of Mumbai, an official said on Saturday.

The aircraft, carrying five employees of India's state-run oil exploration arm ONGC and two pilots, lost contact with air traffic control 15 minutes after taking off from the western city at around 10:25 am local time Saturday.

The helicopter had been leased to ONGC by the state-owned Pawan Hans helicopter firm.

"Seven people were on board including two pilots. Currently search and rescue operations are on, so, we hope to have an update soon," Pawan Hans chairman, BP Sharma, told AFP without giving further details.

The chopper was supposed to land at offshore oil rig Bombay High at 11 am, the Press Trust of India reported citing unnamed sources.

It was reportedly 30 nautical miles off the western coast before going off-radar.

"@indiannavy and @IndiaCoastGuard are extending all possible assistance in the #SAR Search and Rescue of @ONGC_ helicopter and pax on board. Wish for their safety," Nirmala Sitharaman, India's defence minister, said on Twitter.

The navy and coast guard deployed a ship, several boats and aircraft for search and rescue operations.

In 2003, dozens were feared dead when an ONGC helicopter crashed into the sea on its way to an offshore exploration site.

© 2018 AFP