Snow, fog hamper search for missing Peru copter
Friday, June 8, 2012
A search and rescue mission battled snow and fog Friday to hunt for eight South Koreans, three Europeans and three Peruvians whose helicopter is missing in the mountains of southern Peru.
The bad weather prevented aircraft from participating in the mission, while mountain patrols that left Thursday from the villages of Ocongate and Marcapata saw their progress hampered by deep snow.
"The conditions are very adverse. Snow in the area is now about 30 centimeters (12 inches) deep and fog makes it impossible to view the ground from the air," said Cusco police chief General Hector Dulanto.
The helicopter left the city of Mazuco in the southeastern region of Madre de Dios late on Wednesday and set off across the Andes for the tourist hub of Cusco -- but never showed up at its destination.
Officials held out hope that it could have made an emergency landing in the remote Hualla Hualla region, which is at an altitude of 4,725 meters (15,500 feet), about 140 kilometers (90 miles) from Cusco.
On board the Sikorsky S-58 were eight South Koreans, a Czech, a Swede, a Dutch citizen and three Peruvians -- two of them crew members -- according to helicopter owner HeliCusco.
A police patrol helicopter flew Thursday over the area where the aircraft went missing but did not spot it, although the weather conditions again were very poor.
In Seoul, a foreign ministry statement confirmed that eight South Koreans were among the 14 people on board the helicopter.
It said they were engineers and officials from four South Korean companies returning to Cusco after conducting aerial surveillance on a possible site for a hydroelectric project near Puno in southern Peru.
"Attempts were made to reach them by mobile phones but calls were not answered. There were no automatic distress signals either, which should come from the helicopter if it crashes," the ministry statement said.
A diplomat at the South Korean embassy in Peru told South Korea's news agency that the Peruvian air force picked up a GPS signal believed to be coming from the helicopter.
A search helicopter was dispatched to the coordinates but was unable to approach the site because of bad weather, the diplomat said.
Two officials from the South Korean embassy in Lima were in Cusco to monitor the search and rescue operations, Peruvian police said.
Posted by canandanews at 8:19 PM