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Weather Inhibits Search for Helicopter Wreckage in Russia's Remote Far East - 2003-08-24

The bodies of 20 people killed in a helicopter crash Wednesday in Russia's Far East have been recovered from a remote area. Officials are investigating the cause of the crash, which killed the governor of the oil-rich Sakhalin region.

Weather is hampering efforts to retrieve the wreckage of the helicopter, which officials say fell vertically from a height of more than one kilometer, less than an hour after takeoff Wednesday.

The helicopter's black box and voice recorder have both been found, which will aid in the investigation into the cause of the crash.

Russia's Minister of Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu has flown to Kamchatka to oversee the investigation. He says the recovery will take a long time as wreckage is scattered over a wide area, down a mountainside and into a swamp.

Kamchatka consists of rugged terrain that is dominated by dozens of snow-capped volcanoes, many of them active.

Another helicopter crew located the crash site after three days of a search that involved scores of aircraft and many boats in the nearby Pacific Ocean.

This lengthy and expensive search led Mr. Shoigu to suggest that legislation may be adopted to require all aircraft be equipped with satellite beacons.

The MI-8 helicopter that crashed was one of thousands that provide the only means of transport in much of Russia's vast interior, including its Arctic regions.

The crash killed most of the top officials of the Sakhalin region, near Kamchatka, including Governor Igor Farkhutdinov. The governor and leading members of his administration were traveling to an island just south of Kamchatka to inspect damages from a recent typhoon and preparations for the coming winter.

Mr. Farkhutdinov has overseen an economic boom in Sakhalin due to the presence of oil in the Pacific coast region. Many foreign oil companies are involved in oil drilling in the area.