A US Marine Corps helicopter was declared missing yesterday with six marines and two Nepalese soldiers aboard as it ferried rice and tarpaulin sheets to earthquake victims in rugged terrain in Nepal, near a town rocked hard by the deadly aftershocks.
According to US Army Colonel Steve Warren, reports from the field indicated the helicopter's crew was overheard talking about fuel problems before US military officials lost contact with the light attack helicopter.
A 90-minute search by three Marine Corps V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft failed to locate the aircraft before nightfall, after which the search was suspended.
According to Warren, a ground search by Nepalese troops was continuing.
Warren said as of now, the location of the missing helicopter was not known.
He noted that the area was "rugged and mountainous" and any radio transmissions from the helicopter might not be heard due to the mountains.
The helicopter was one of three Marine Corps UH-1Y Hueys participating in earthquake relief operations following the 7.8 magnitude tremblor that hit Nepal last month. The tremor was followed by aftershocks including a major 7.3 magnitude tremor earlier yesterday.
According to army major Dave Eastburn, spokesman for US Pacific Command, the helicopter was carrying US and Nepalese forces when it went missing in the area of Charikot village, located in the area hardest hit by Tuesday's aftershock.
Meanwhile, the helicopter might have gone down in a river in the Charikot area hit hard by an earthquake, it is said.
According to Nepalese Army Major Rajan Dahal, second in command of the Barda Bahadur Batallion, the information they had was that it was down in one of the rivers, but had not been seen yet, Australian Broadcasting reported.
The quake was the worst aftershock following the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that hit Nepal last month, which left more than 8,000 people dead and destroyed parts of the country.
Tuesday's powerful quake took a toll of 48 and injured over 1,100 in Nepal, according to police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam.
Seventeen people were killed in Bihar and UP according to the home ministry and Chinese media reported the death of one person in Tibet after rocks fell on a car.
According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake struck at a depth of 19 kilometres, 83 kilometres east of the capital Kathmandu - near the base camp for Everest - about 12:30 pm local time.