Charred bodies of all eight soldiers onboard the US Marine chopper that crashed in a remote hilly area while delivering aid in quake-hit Nepal have been recovered, Nepalese Army said on Saturday as seven aftershocks were felt and death toll from the fresh temblor rose to 136.
Nepal Army rescue team spotted wrecked parts of the US Marine Corps UH-1 Huey, that went missing from the remote and rugged area of Gorthali village in Sindhupalchowk district since Tuesday when the second powerful temblor struck, yesterday on a steep slope of the mountainside.
Three of the eight bodies were recovered from its wreckage yesterday soon after it was located.
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The parts of the Huey – a helicopter dating back to the Vietnam War era – were found scattered around at 11,200-feet altitude, Nepal Army said.
Eight bodies have also been recovered from the crash site – all of them charred and in a state beyond recognition, the Army said in a statement.
The remains would soon be transferred to Kathmandu, Nepal Army spokesman Jagadish Pokharel said.
The chopper carrying two Nepalese Army personnel and six US Marines to deliver aid and relief materials in Charikot and Dolakha, two of the districts most affected by the quakes, had crashed in the mountainous region of Sindhupalchowk, it said.
The disappearance of the helicopter – among over a dozen US military aircraft undertaking aid operations – had triggered intense search involving US and Nepalese aircraft and even US satellites besides hundreds of American and Nepalese ground troops.
Both the US and Nepalese Army have reached the site, though the real cause of the crash is not yet known.
“Together we mourn as our nation and the Federal Republic of Nepal have lost eight courageous men. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families,” said commander of the US Pacific Command Admiral Samuel J Locklear.
Investigation is underway in this regard, according to the statement.
According to some reports, the crew had been heard over the radio saying the aircraft was experiencing a fuel problem.
Initial report indicates that “panic-stricken” flight captain flew the aircraft too high — either to avoid the giant landslides in the surrounding areas, or the areas were blanketed by thick fog suddenly, according to ekantipur.com.
The report also quoted an aviation expert as saying that “normally, search and rescue missions involve flying as low as 600 feet from the ground level and we were surprised to know that the aircraft crashed at 11,200 feet”.
Meanwhile, seven mild tremors recorded near Kathmandu this morning with magnitude around 4 on the Richter Scale kept people on edge in Nepal, devastated by two powerful earthquakes that struck within weeks.
The death toll from Tuesday’s 7.3-magnitude temblor rose to 136 while the number of injured reached 2,956. The powerful quake struck the Himalayan nation just when it had begun to rebuild itself following the devastation from the monster temblor less than three weeks ago.
A 4.2-magnitude tremor was recorded with epicentre in Lalitpur-Makawanpur (neighbouring districts of Kathmandu) at 9.35 am while another 4.2-magnitude aftershock was recorded minutes before at 9.24 am with epicentre at Sindhupalchowk district, 100 kms east of Kathmandu.
Similarly, five small tremors of 4 and 4.1 magnitude were recorded between 2 am to 6.30 am with epicentres at Gorkha-Dhading, Dolakha and Nuwakot districts, according to National Seismological Centre.
Over 230 aftershocks have been recorded so far after the April 25 quake that killed more than 8,400 people.