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Bodies of 5 Helicopter Crew Recovered from Quake Zone

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The bodies of five crew aboard the military helicopter that crashed on a mercy mission in southwest China's earthquake zone were recovered from the remote forest-covered mountains and arrived in Yingxiu Town on Friday morning.

Tang Qiliang, deputy director of the political department of the Sichuan Military Area Command, said rescuers were still trekking on foot, carrying the bodies of three policemen and 10 civilians.

The bodies of the crew were placed in coffins in Yingxiu, and driven in hearses to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, where a funeral would be held, said Tang.

He said the other bodies would be returned to their hometown of Lixian, after their recovery.

The crash site was 7.5 kilometers from Yingxiu, the epicenter in the magnitude-8 earthquake on May 12. Searchers found the site on Tuesday after a 12-day search for the aircraft, which was widely scattered among dense vegetation.

The helicopter was carrying injured civilians when it crashed deep in the mountains on May 31 on a return trip from quake-ravaged Lixian County to Chengdu.

Rain had forced the rescue team to delay their hike out of the crash site in steep mountains for more than 24 hours before they were finally able to set off on Thursday afternoon.

More than 1,000 soldiers were dispatched to carry the bodies out of the region on foot, as the site was too mountainous and the bamboo cover too thick to allow rescue helicopters to land.

(Xinhua News Agency June 13, 2008)