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Search Continues for Crashed Quake-relief Helicopter

The search continued in China on Monday for a crashed military transport helicopter engaging in quake relief work.

The military has deployed 1,240 troopers, divided into eight groups, to undertake a blanket search of suspected crash sites.

Meanwhile, four helicopters were sent to conduct air searches for the crashed chopper. In addition, a screening was going on in suspected crash sites reported by the military and civilians, according to a source within the Chengdu Military Area Command.

The helicopter, engaged in the quake relief work near the quake-devastated Yingxiu Township, Wenchuan County in the southwestern Sichuan Province, crashed on Saturday afternoon.

Fourteen injured local residents and a crew of five from the Chengdu Military Area Command were on the Mi-171 when it crashed at 2:56 PM, the source said.

The helicopter was returning from a mission to carry epidemic prevention experts to Lixian County when it encountered strong turbulence and fog and crashed.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, also General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, instructed local authorities to carry out search and rescue operations immediately after hearing the news.

Since the crash site was among the canyons surrounded by high mountains, the mission was really arduous, the source said.

The crew, led by Senior Colonel Qiu Guanghua, had completed 63 flights, transferring 25.8 tons of relief materials, 87 quake relief workers and 234 victims since the May 12 quake.

Qiu's crew had always been excellent in completing military missions and this time the task was very tough. The accident occurred in very complicated terrain while the weather was unpredictably abominable, said the military source.

(Xinhua News Agency June 2, 2008)

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