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Team Carries Crashed Helicopter Debris, Bodies to Yingxiu

Chinese search teams, traveling on foot, are carrying the remains of the crashed military helicopter and the bodies of those aboard to earthquake relief headquarters in the town of Yingxiu, Sichuan Province, military sources said on Wednesday.

As of 3:00 PM on Wednesday, more than 1,000 militia, reservists and soldiers had been mobilized for the recovery operation, as the site was too mountainous and the forest cover too thick to allow rescue helicopters to land.

Some of the debris of the crashed aircraft reached the quake-ravaged Yingxiu around 11:00 AM on Wednesday, where military experts confirmed it belonged to the military helicopter, the military sources said.

A 40-strong team had reached the crash site at 11:30 AM and was expected to carry the 17 bodies to Yingxiu about 11:00 AM on Thursday.

So far, the search team had found the bodies of five crew members and 12 quake victims. One person is still missing.

The Mi-171 military transport helicopter crashed at 2:56 PM on May 31 while transferring 13 injured civilians from the epicenter of the May 12 quake in the southwest Sichuan Province.

One person formerly reported as having been on board did not take the helicopter.

More than 100 helicopters were sent to locate the aircraft, while more than 300 rescue teams, consisting of more than 10,000 troops, armed police, militia, reservists and local residents, combed the region to search for the missing aircraft.

The debris of the Mi-171 helicopter was found in the bushes northwest of Yingxiu township at 10:55 AM on Tuesday.

(Xinhua News Agency June 11, 2008)

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