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Mon, Mar 03, 2008

UN Helicopter Down In Nepal, At Least 10 Lost

Mil-17 May Have Been Struck By Lightning

At least 10 people are confirmed lost after a United Nations helicopter crashed Monday in a mountainous region of eastern Nepal.

Weather conditions at the time of the accident were reportedly poor, with rain showers cancelling several commercial flights in the country. Witnesses said the helicopter -- a Russian-made Mil-17 -- was hit by lightning immediately before the accident.

Rescue and recovery efforts were also hampered by low cloud cover and rain showers.

"Seven United Nations personnel and three crew were on the helicopter," UN spokesman Keiran Dwyer told Agence-France Presse. Officials with Nepal's home ministry say as many as 12 people were onboard the helicopter, which was returning from a camp for former Maoist guerillas.

"The government of Nepal is extremely saddened by the loss and we will undertake recovery work as soon as the weather permits," said Home ministry spokesman Modraj Dottel.

UN personnel are in Nepal to monitor a peace deal between former Maoist rebels and the government, and to assist in upcoming elections.

FMI: www.un.org

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