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    SEARCHES FOR LOST HELICOPTER CONTINUE IN KYRGYZSTAN

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    BISHKEK, March 16, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Yulia Orlova) -- The searches for the helicopter of the Ministry of Ecology and Emergencies, the contact with which was lost in the daytime on Monday, continue.

    As RIA Novosti was told in the press service of the Ministry of Ecology and Emergencies no news has come so far about the lost helicopter on board of which there can be about 20 people. The contact with the chopper can not be established.

    According to RIA Novosti's data the rescue service's helicopter flew to the high mountain As-Bashinsky district of the Naryn Region of Kyrgyzstan on the border with China to take on board a group of foreign hunters and accompanying them people, who were in snow captivity for several days twenty kilometers of the Mustur frontier post.

    According to the plan, the helicopter was to evacuate part of the group to the frontier post and deliver the rest of the group to the city of Naryn.

    According to the preliminary data, at 1.50 p.m., local time, the helicopter took the passengers on board and flew to the frontier post. Around 2.30 p.m. the contact with the helicopter was suddenly lost.

    The experts of the Ministry of the Ecology and Emergencies do not lose hope to find a chopper intact since communication in the high mountains is unstable. It is quite probable that the pilots made a forced landing.

    A group of rescuers has left last night for the tentative place of the helicopter's landing.

    On board the helicopter apart from Kyrgyz nationals there were two US citizens and one Canadian, who had bought a hunting tour.

    The hunting season opened in Kyrgyzstan on March 1st.

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