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Thursday, May 14

Day 3: Search continued for missing US Marine helicopter in Nepal

It's 9:00 PM in Nepal.  Tomorrow begins the third full day of searching for the Huey.  While there is still no indication of a crash, if the chopper landed in forest it would be hard to find.  

"If it just landed in that forest, it would be lost," said Bala Nanda Sharma, a retired Nepali army general, gesturing to a hillside from the Charikot army base from which helicopters were flying.

More from the Reuters report filed from Charikot, Nepal and published at 9:03 AM EDT:    
In Koshikhet village, a two-man U.S. civilian team was using a drone to search for the missing Marine Corps UH-1Y, or Huey as the model is better known, which was carrying six Marines and two Nepali soldiers.
"We are using infrared vision to look for hotspots and any signs of life," said drone operator Shepherd Eaton, from GlobalMedic, a U.S. aid agency that specializes in search and rescue. Eaton and his partner wore cowboy hats, T-shirts and jeans and worked with a Nepali army team that had a helicopter.
The search, involving U.S., Indian and Nepali military choppers and a battalion of 400 Nepali soldiers, has been joined by two MV-22B Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft capable of taking off and landing vertically.
After two full days of searching, no sign had been found of the Huey, which was on an aid mission in Dolakha district near Tibet when it lost contact on Tuesday.
A Reuters correspondent flew on a Nepali military helicopter along the Tamakoshi river that runs by the town of Charikot, in the mountainous Dolakha district worst hit by Tuesday's 7.3 magnitude quake that has killed more than 100 people.  [see the Reuters website for video of air search taken by the reporter from the chopper] 
The river winds through rugged Himalayan terrain in an area whose tallest peak soars over 7,000 meters (23,000 ft). Hillsides are cloaked with lush forest that would make it hard to sight the chopper that went missing after the crew was heard over the radio saying the aircraft had a fuel problem.
The search is complicated by the earthquake that struck on Tuesday.

Medecins Sans Frontieres emergency coordinator Dan Sermand said Tuesday's tremors caused serious damage to buildings in remote areas that had already been weakened.

"The first [earthquake] has done quite some damage. The second has finished the job," Sermand said by telephone from Kathmandu.

MSF deployed two helicopters, each with two medical teams, to Dolakha to stabilize and evacuate the injured. Civilian helicopters were not asked to join the search for the missing U.S. chopper.

Home Ministry official Laxmi Prasad Dahal told Reuters on Wednesday he feared the search was diverting resources from relief and rescue operations.

Relief workers and aid were only slowly reaching remote areas, where many roads have been cut by landslides - including the single-track road along the Tamakoshi river where no moving vehicles could be seen from the air.

In Mabu village, the Nepali search helicopter stopped to find out if the locals there had any information about the missing helicopter.

"You are the only person we have seen so far," said Bhagawat Gurung, 18, a villager, when asked whether any aid workers had reached them.


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