Helicopter Wreckage Found in Nepal; All Aboard Presumed Dead

By BenarNews Staff
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150515-NP-chopper-620 Personnel at a base in Kathmandu gather in front of a Nepalese helicopter, whose crew spotted the wreckage of a missing U.S. Marine helicopter, May 15, 2015.

All eight people aboard a U.S. military helicopter that disappeared in earthquake-stricken Nepal three days ago are presumed dead after the aircraft’s wreckage was spotted in the Himalayas on Friday, according to American officials.

“Today our hearts are heavy with grief for the U.S. Marines who perished when their helicopter went down in the mountains of Nepal earlier this week while providing aid to earthquake victims there,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said in a statement late Friday.

Six marines and two Nepalese servicemen were on the Marine Corps UH-1Y chopper, when it crashed as the crew was conducting a disaster-relief mission in the wake of a second quake that struck on Tuesday, officials said.

“We also join our Nepalese partners in mourning the loss of their service members who were onboard the helicopter at the time, and we thank the Nepalese and Indian governments for their continued support in search and recovery operations,” Carter added.

Nepal is reeling from two earthquakes that occurred 17 days apart. The first quake, a 7.8-magintude temblor on April 25, left at least 8,200 people dead and at least 17,800 injured, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Tuesday’s quake, which measured 7.3 on the Richter Scale, killed at least 117 people and injured 2,800, according to the Associated Press.

‘We need to do more’

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the international community to step up humanitarian aid to Nepal.

An earlier appeal by the United Nations to send U.S. $423 million in emergency funding has fallen well short of the goal, he said.

“The appeal is currently only 14 percent, at about $60 million,” Ban added, noting that this included $15 million allocated from the U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

So far, international relief efforts have delivered food to more than one million people and water to some 350,000, and members of the Nepal Trekkers Association were climbing to cut-off communities to bring more aid, he said.

But Ban warned that time was of the essence because the monsoon season would be coming to Nepal next month, and could make life more miserable for displaced Nepalis now living in tents.

“The monsoon season will also increase the danger of cholera and other water-borne diseases,” he added. Some areas of Nepal have lost almost all their water and sanitation facilities. There is a real danger that heavy rains could result in a major epidemic.”

High-altitude crash site

In other news out of Nepal, Reuters reported that dozens of relief workers who had been transporting emergency supplies were still missing in the vicinity of Singati village, some 75 km (47 miles) east of Kathmandu.

Tuesday’s quake triggered a landslide on a local road that buried a convoy delivering aid to the area in response to the first quake, according to Reuters.

As for the crashed American chopper, its wreckage was found on a mountainside at an altitude of 3,400 meters (11,200 feet), about 13 km (8 miles) from the town of Charikot, Reuters reported.

"Because of nature of the wreckage, it is unlikely that there are any survivors,” Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commandant of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, said Friday, according to the Defense Department.
Due to the challenging terrain , strong winds, thunderstorms and sub-freezing temperatures , efforts to recover the wreckage and find bodies would be postponed till first light on Saturday, Wissler said.


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