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8 die as helicopter crashes in India

GAUCHAR, India — An air force helicopter returning from a rescue mission in flood-ravaged northern India hit the side of a mountain and fell into a river on Tuesday, killing eight people, officials said.

Bad weather has hampered rescue efforts in Uttarakhand state, where more than 1,000 people are believed to have died and thousands of others remain stranded in remote areas because of landslides and floods triggered by torrential monsoon rains. Other air force helicopters were unable to take off due to poor visibility, Group Captain Sandeep Mehta said.

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The air force has ordered an inquiry into the crash in the temple town of Kedarnath, said Priya Joshi, an air force spokeswoman. Five crew members and three civilians were on board the helicopter, she said.

Joshi said 45 aircraft were involved in rescue and relief operations in Uttarakhand.

Air force chief N.A.K. Browne assured flood survivors on Monday that the air force would rescue everyone stranded in Uttarakhand, but bad weather and poor visibility have led to the frequent suspension of evacuation flights.

Authorities also prepared Tuesday to cremate the bodies of hundreds of people who perished in the floods. Truckloads of wooden logs were loaded onto transport planes and flown to Kedarnath to be used in a mass funeral and cremation for the flood victims.

Troops are also trying to rescue about 5,000 people who remain stranded in Badrinath town eight days after the torrential rains began.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Monday that the death toll in the floods would exceed 1,000.

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