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Helicopter Disappears in Eastern Nepal

Officials in eastern Nepal say they fear a private helicopter carrying 24 people has crashed east of Kathmandu.

Authorities Saturday said the passengers included the minister of forests and soil conservation, journalists, World Wildlife Fund conservation workers and foreigners. They noted that passengers included Nepalese, Finnish, Russian, American, Canadian and Australian citizens.

In a statement on its Web site, the World Wildlife Fund said the group had been visiting a project site in Ghunsa. It said the helicopter ride should have taken only 20 minutes.

The Russian-made MI-17 helicopter disappeared about 500 kilometers east of the capital.

An aerial search team suspended its efforts to locate the missing helicopter at nightfall. Officials say the search in the remote mountainous region will resume Sunday at dawn.

The World Wildlife Fund said the group was in the region to attend a ceremony marking the handover of the Kanchanjunga Conservation Area Project to the local community.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.