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LEAD: 9 die as U.N.-chartered helicopter crashes in Mongolia.

ULAN BATOR, Jan. 15 Kyodo


Nine people, including two members of a Japanese television crew, were killed and 14 others injured Sunday when the United Nations-chartered helicopter they were aboard crashed in Mongolia, the Mongolian government said Monday.

Mongolian Defense Minister Jugderdemidiin Gurragchaa said the nine casualties are four U.N. staffers -- from Britain, Germany, Mongolia and the United States -- three Mongolians, including a national assembly member, and the two Japanese with Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK).

They died in the crash about 1,000 kilometers northwest of Ulan Bator.

The U.N. announced in New York that the four U.N. staffers were members of a U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team that had been investigating the damage caused by heavy snow in Mongolia.

UNDAC chartered the helicopter to inspect areas where a large number of livestock were killed by heavy snow, according to the U.N.

The NHK journalists -- reporter Takahiro Kato, 33, and cameraman Minoru Masaki, 35 -- were accompanying the U.N. officials to survey the damage, the U.N. headquarters said.

The U.N. said it is the first time members of UNDAC, which has been in operation since 1993, have been killed in the field.

UNDAC is a standby team of disaster management professionals who are chosen and funded by member governments, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) as well as operational humanitarian U.N. agencies such as the World Food Program, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Upon receiving a request from a disaster-stricken country, the UNDAC team can be deployed within hours to carry out rapid assessment of priority needs and to support national authorities in coordinating international on-site relief.

The U.N. headquarters in New York announced that the four U.N. staffers were a German OCHA official, an American UNICEF official, a Mongolian U.N. Environment Program official and a Briton who was an expert in surveying disaster damage.

The Russian-made helicopter took off from Ulaangom in Uvs Province at around 10 a.m. Sunday and crashed when it tried to land at a nomad encampment after a brief stop at another location in the same province, the U.N. said.

Mongolia has experienced two extremely cold winters in a row, resulting in the deaths of about 500,000 cattle.

In New York, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan issued an emergency statement Sunday, mourning the deaths of the nine.

Annan said he offers his deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and thanked the Mongolian government for its swift assistance to the injured.
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Publication:Japan Transportation Scan
Date:Jan 22, 2001
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