UN reaches downed helicopter in DR Congo after four days

Rescuers took four days to reach the wreckage of a UN helicopter that crashed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and finally found the bodies of the four Russian crew on Tuesday, the UN said.

The cargo helicopter crashed on Saturday but bad weather stopped the UN mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, from getting to the wreckage about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Bukavu in South Kivu province, UN officials said.

"The wreck of the helicopter was spotted on Sunday, but bad weather and difficulties in access slowed down the rescue operation," said a MONUSCO statement.

A member of the search team reached the accident site on Tuesday and confirmed that the four Russians were dead, MONUSCO said.

The helicopter, under contract to the UN, had been returning to Bukavu from a mission to Shabunda.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon "offers his sincerest condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of the victims, and to the government of the Russian Federation," said a statement released by Ban's office.

"MONUSCO has launched an immediate investigation into the cause of the crash," Ban added.

The accident was the latest in a series for the UN in DR Congo. In April 2011, 32 people were killed when a plane chartered by MONUSCO crashed near Kinshasa airport.

Many of MONUSCO's 19,000 troops and police are deployed in the mineral-rich but conflict-ridden eastern provinces of DR Congo.

by Park Chan-Kyong © 2013 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Mar 12, 2013