Peru set to send air, ground rescue teams for missing Koreans
MEXICO CITY (Yonhap) --Peruvian military and police rescue teams came close to reaching the site of where a helicopter carrying eight Koreans went down, but had to pull back due to bad weather, a diplomatic source said Friday.
The Korean Embassy source in Lima said a 13-person military air rescue team on a helicopter came to within 5 miles from the supposed crash site in the Ocongate region yet made no further progress because of strong winds and snow that effectively made visual search impossible.
The source said they plan to resume the search Saturday using three helicopters, although two days of snowfall in the region is expected to hinder the rescue effort.
The embassy, in addition, said a 30-member police alpine rescue team came close to the crash site although they too had to fall back in the face of worsening weather conditions.
"Seoul's ambassador to Peru has asked the government to increase the number of ground search personnel and Lima pledged to send their Army rescue team into the area," an official said. He added that locals in the region have volunteered to find the missing chopper after hearing the news from the media.
The official said that if weather conditions clear up a visual sighting should be made Saturday.
The ill-fated S-58 chopper may have crashed late Wednesday between the cities of Mazuco and Cusco in southeastern Peru at a latitude of 13 degrees and 27 minutes south and a longitude of 71 degrees and 7 minutes west.
The Koreans on board were all employees of Samsung C&T, the Korea Water Resources Corp., the Korea Engineering Consultants Corp. and Seoyeong Engineering. They were returning from a trip to a potential hydropower plant site near Mazuco.
Besides the eight Korean nationals, the Sikorsky chopper had one Dutch engineer who works for Samsung C&T, as well as five other people including the flight crew.
Local and embassy authorities, meanwhile, said because more than 40 hours have passed since contact with the chopper was lost, there is grave concern for people on board even if they survived the crash. The region is 4,000 meters high with temperatures falling to minus 16 degrees C at night.
Related to the incident, Samsung C&T and the Korea Water Resources Corp. said they have sent teams to Peru so they can work with local authorities to expedite the search and rescue effort.