Uttarakhand: IAF rescue chopper crashes, all 20 on board feared killed

HelicopterAn IAF helicopter MI-17 V5 during rescue operation in Gauchar on Tuesday. (PTI)

In a tragic accident that underlines the risks pilots are taking to evacuate those stranded after the Uttarakhand flash floods, all 20 people on board an IAF helicopter ferrying rescue personnel from the temple town of Kedarnath were feared killed when the aircraft crashed Tuesday. I would ask my children never to go to Uttarakhand: Flood survivor

The Mi-17 V5 chopper, the very latest in the inventory of the Indian Air Force, went down while it was heading towards a temporary air base in Gaucher. It crashed when there was a thick cloud cover in difficult terrain near the Jungle Chatti area north of Gaurikund, the base camp for the 14-km trek to Kedarnath.

The IAF continued flying operations in the region after the chopper was reported missing just after midday. However, warnings of extreme weather in the area will mean no flying likely on this axis over the next few days, sources said. Related: Chopper commander was complimented for good work

The crashed helicopter was transporting back a team of nine ITBP and six NDRF personnel who had been camping in Kedarnath, coordinating rescue operations over the past one week. There were five crew members on board the chopper which belonged to the Barrackpore-based 157 Helicopter Unit.

An elite 'Garud' special force unit of the IAF reached the crash spot to assess the damage and para commandos of the Army will reach the spot Wednesday to look for bodies.

It is still not clear what caused the crash but sources said there was no distress call from the chopper before it went down, reducing the possibility of mechanical failure. The chopper is believed to have crashed into a mountainside in the narrow Kedar valley after encountering bad weather and low visibility.

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