A day-long search operation, involving 400 soldiers and half a dozen choppers, failed to find a missing US helicopter in the earthquake-hit northern Nepal on Wednesday.
The Marine Corps UH-1Y Huey helicopter with six US Marines and two Nepalese soldiers on board was on its way to deliver aid and relief materials in Charikot and Dolakha, two of the worst-hit districts, on Tuesday when it lost contact with the ground control over Sunkhani in Charikot — 67 km northeast of Kathmandu.
The crew was last heard talking about fuel problems.
The search operation is being jointly conducted by the Nepal the US personnel.
A Nepalese military official said the helicopter may have come down in one of the rivers that snake through valleys in the district of Dolakha, east of the capital, Kathmandu.
Six other helicopters joined hundreds of ground troops in search of the missing aircraft.
“The information we have is that it is down in one of the rivers, but none of the choppers has seen it yet,” Major Rajan Dahal, second-in-command of the Barda Bahadur Battalion, told Reuters in the district capital, Charikot.
“There are 400-plus of our ground troops looking for it also. By this evening, we might get it,” he said.
Bala Nanda Sharma, a retired Nepali army general, who visited the army base in Charikot and discussed the search, said: “If it just landed in that forest, it would be lost. This terrain is very beautiful, but very difficult.”
After the first major quake on April 25, the US Air Force had dispatched two C-17 cargo planes loaded with emergency supplies for Nepal. Five US Marine Corps aircraft — a UH 1Y Huey helicopter and four MV-22 Ospreys — have been deployed in Nepal.
Meanwhile, Nepal Home Ministry feared that the operation was diverting resources from relief and rescue work. “The work of sending relief and rescuing the injured people has been delayed due to this,” Reuters quoted Nepal Home Ministry spokesperson Laxmi Prasad Dhal as saying.