At least eight people were seriously injured when a Mil Mi-8 transport helicopter operated by the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) crash-landed during a routine VIP transportation mission in the Saraf Umra area in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.
The UNAMID spokesman Ashraf Eisa confirmed the accident in an interview with local broadcaster Radio Dabanga and international news agencies. He said the Russian-made Mi-8 ‘Hip’ chopper was forced to make an emergency landing after developing a fault while on a routine VIP passenger transportation flight between the North Darfuri capital of El Fasher and the Saraf Umra municipality on Friday last week.
“A UNAMID helicopter, an Mi-8, carrying 18 passengers and three crew on board made an emergency landing approximately 100 metres (yards) from the helipad at a base belonging to the mission at Saraf Omra in North Darfur. All on board suffered varying degrees of injuries as a result of the incident. Eight of them were reported to be seriously injured. No deaths were reported,” Essa was quoted as saying.
He said the passengers, who included Sudanese and foreign nationals, were treated at the nearby UN base while plans were being made to evacuate some of the seriously injured passengers to other destinations for medical treatment. The UN says it has opened an investigation to establish the cause of the crash.
The helicopter was one of the aviation assets of the shaky UNAMID peacekeeping operation which has 17 000 soldiers deployed to maintain peace between the Sudanese army and armed rebel factions which accuse the government of under-developing the largely-black regions of North and South Darfur.
The crash in Darfur was the fifth Mi-8 ‘Hip’ accident recorded across the world in the first three weeks of August.
According to defense analysis portal IHS Janes, four Mil Mi-8/17 ‘Hip’ transport helicopters were lost to accidents in the first two weeks of August, resulting in the deaths of 35 of the passengers who were on-board at the time. The accidents hit the airforces of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Russia.