A Mi-8 helicopter with 16 people on board crashed in Russia’s Far East region of Kamchatka early on Thursday, the local emergency service said, and news agencies reported nine had been found alive and seven were missing.
The helicopter operated by Vityaz-Aero company with 13 passengers and three crew hard-landed near a lake on the south of Kamchatka peninsula, the local emergency service said.
The helicopter was carrying tourists from Moscow and St Petersburg, state news agency RIA reported, citing a source at the emergency service. RIA said the helicopter fell into the lake.
Nine people were found alive at the scene, Interfax news agency reported, citing a source with Kamchatka’s health ministry. TASS news agency said seven passengers and two crew members survived the crash.
The Mi-8 is a two-engine helicopter designed in the 1960s. It has been used widely in Russia, ex-Soviet countries and many other nations.
Kamchatka peninsula is more than 6,000 km (3,728 miles) east of Moscow and about 2,000 km west of Alaska.
The area where the crash occurred can only be reached by helicopters and the fog was complicating rescue efforts, the RIA Novosti reported. Several local emergency workers, including three divers, were conducting rescue efforts, it said.
Kamchatka, the pristine peninsula, which is home to numerous volcanoes, is known for its rugged beauty and rich wildlife. The Kronotsky reserve, which has Russia’s only geyser basin, is a major tourist attraction on Kamchatka and helicopters regularly carry tourists there.
Russian aviation safety standards have improved in recent years but accidents, especially involving aging planes and helicopters, are not uncommon.
Quickly changing weather often makes flights risky. Last month, an An-26 passenger plane crashed on Kamchatka while approaching an airport in bad weather, killing all 28 people on board.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)