Hours of searching so far fail to find U.S. helicopter missing in Nepal

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KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) — Hours of searching mountainous terrain on foot and from the air have so far failed to locate a U.S. military helicopter that went missing in Nepal as it helped with relief efforts in the earthquake-ravaged nation.

The UH-1 Huey helicopter had six U.S. Marines and two Nepali service members aboard when it lost contact Tuesday evening, Pentagon officials said.

Radio transmissions indicated its crew was having some type of fuel problem before it went missing near Charikot, an area roughly 45 miles east of Kathmandu, the capital, the Pentagon has said.

The helicopter was assisting with disaster relief in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck the Himalayan nation on April 25, killing thousands of people. Another strong earthquake hit Nepal on Tuesday afternoon, causing more damage and casualties.

Official: No evidence of crash

Nepali soldiers and police officers searched on foot through the night, said Prem Lal Lamichane, a senior official in Dolakha, the district where the helicopter disappeared.

Other helicopters, including two from the same Marine squadron as the missing one, took to the air early Wednesday to hunt from above.

But so far, there have been no confirmed sightings, said Capt. Cassandra M. Gesecki, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Joint Task Force.

“Everyone is staying positive,” she said. “We are trained for this kind of scenario.”

Gesecki said there was no evidence that the missing helicopter had crashed.

The area where it lost contact is near the epicenter of Tuesday’s magnitude 7.3 earthquake.

Communications difficult in mountains

In some parts of the mountains, communications are problematic, so the hope is that the helicopter crew is alive and in one of those areas, officials say.

Four aircraft are involved in the search, according to Gesecki. Air Force paratroopers are also searching. And teams of Nepali soldiers are continuing to look on foot.

The helicopter that went missing had been “delivering humanitarian aid to those affected by the recent earthquake and evacuating casualties back to Kathmandu,” the U.S. military said.

Gesecki said that no injured people were on board at the time of the disappearance.

About 300 American personnel are on the ground in Nepal helping with earthquake relief efforts.