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Slim hope for 19 missing on helicopter
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Despite more efforts on searching for the Chinese helicopter that went missing on Saturday afternoon, the possibility the 19 people onboard might be alive was fading, according to the Chengdu Military Area Command.

"It's been more than 100 hours since the helicopter went missing in the quake zone, and chances are growing slimmer for the 19 people to remain alive," said an official with the headquarters of the rescue mission under the Chengdu Military Area Command.

As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, there was still no sight of the helicopter. The five crew and 14 quake victims that were on board were nowhere to be found.

The military sources said many aftershocks occurred in the suspected crash site in the past few days, causing landslides and altering local terrain. The difficulties were mounting for the search and rescue mission as goes on, he said.

"We will go further in searching for the helicopter and missing people with more powerful technology," said the official. "We, like everybody else, are expecting to find them."

As of Wednesday, more helicopters, remote sensing planes and powered parachute aircraft had joined the hunt. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 troops, paramilitary personnel, and even local residents were still scrambling through the steep mountains, dense bush and slippery tracks in a "blanket search."

On Wednesday morning, six special technical soldiers were airlifted into suspected crash areas for field observation.

In addition, a water-land armored car is being used to detect the bottom of the Zipingpu dam for their whereabouts. The dam is located over the Yangtze River's main tributary of the Minjiang River near Dujiangyan City, one of the areas seriously hit by the quake.

Late Monday, President Hu Jintao, also General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, instructed the rescue team to continue sparing no efforts to search for the helicopter after debriefing a searching report.

The helicopter went missing on May 31 afternoon as the crew, led by Senior Colonel Qiu Guanghua, was undertaking its 64th flight mission since the May 12 quake.

According to military sources, Qiu's crew had enjoyed outstanding achievements before and they had already transferred 234 victims out of the quake zone since.

(Xinhua News Agency June 5, 2008)

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