A Pakistan military helicopter carrying diplomats to the launch of projects in northern Pakistan crashed on Friday killing six people, including the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines and the wives of the ambassadors of Malaysia and Indonesia, the army said quoted by Reuters.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was traveling to the mountainous northern region of Gilgit on a separate aircraft to launch two projects when the accident happened. He returned to Islamabad, his office said.
Military spokesman Asim Bajwa said in a Twitter post that as well as the four foreigners, the two pilots were killed.
He said Dutch ambassador Marcel de Vink and Polish ambassador Andrzej Ananicz were injured in the crash. Romania’s Ambassador Emilian Ion was also on board, but he was not injured. Contacted by Romania’s Foreign Ministry , Emilian Ion confirmed that he was out of danger.
“From the first information sent by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry to the Romanian Embassy in Islamabad, a helicopter carrying foreigners, the Romanian Ambassador to Pakistan included, crashed Friday morning in northern Pakistan. The Romanian Foreign Ministry subsequently succeeded to call the Romanian Ambassador, who confirmed that he was all right,” the Foreign Ministry said in a release.
The dead included Norwegian Ambassador Leif Larsen, Philippines Ambassador Domingo Lucenario Jr, and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors to Pakistan and the helicopter’s two Pakistani pilots.
The MI-17 helicopter was carrying 17 people, including 11 foreigners, the military’s spokesperson Major-General Asim Bajwa said in an earlier statement.
The 13 survivors had “varying degrees of injuries”. The injured are being treated at the Combined Military Hospital at Jutial, about 30km away from the area in which the crash occurred, aljazeera.com reports.
On board was Romanian ambassador. Fortunately Emilian Ion was not injured.
The aircraft crashed in the Naltar Valley area of Gilgit-Baltistan, about 300km north of the capital Islamabad.
Gilgit-Baltistan is located in Pakistan’s extreme north, and is at the junction of three major mountain ranges: the Himalayas, the Karakorum and the Hindu Kush. It is home to more than 100 peaks higher than 7,000 metres. It is also part of the disputed region of Kashmir.
A witness to the crash told Al Jazeera that it appeared that aircraft had suffered a technical issue.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was due to visit Gilgit-Baltistan on Friday, which the diplomats were visiting as part of a four-day tour.
Sharif was en route to Gilgit when the crash occurred, and has now cancelled his visit, state media reported.
He expressed “deep grief and sorrow” over the crash, according to Radio Pakistan.
The helicopter that crashed was part of a group of three, all of which were carrying foreign diplomats on their tour of the area.