Rescuers recovered 12 bodies from a United Nations helicopter that crashed while flying during bad weather on a peacekeeping mission in mountainous eastern Nepal, officials said Tuesday.
The helicopter went down Monday as it returned to the capital from a visit to a camp in eastern Nepal where former communist rebel combatants have been confined as part of a peace deal.
UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said at UN headquarters in New York there were 13 people on board: four UN arms monitors from South Korea, Indonesia, Gambia and Sweden, three UN staff from Nepal and a three-member Russian crew.
Nepalese rescue helicopters were able to reach the crash site Tuesday morning after fog cleared, Home Ministry official Modraj Dotel said. They found 12 bodies burned beyond recognition at an area in Ramechap district, about 200 kilometres east of Katmandu, Dotel said.
The discrepancy in the number of people aboard the helicopter could not be immediately explained.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “great sorrow” after learning of Monday’s crash.
Villagers reported seeing a ball of fire after the crash. Nepalese authorities were unable to send rescue helicopters immediately to the area because of rain and darkness.
Sudden rain Monday forced the cancellation of many scheduled commercial flights. Flying in bad weather is often difficult in Nepal’s mountainous terrain. Pilots often use their vision to navigate through the mountains and depend less on instruments.
The United Nations has been helping Nepal’s peace process since 2006, when communist rebels gave up their armed revolt and joined mainstream politics. The rebels confined their combatants and weapons in camps under the supervision of UN arms monitors. (AP)
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