Devendra Man Singh  /  AFP - Getty Images
World Wildlife Fund spokesman Anil Manandhar talks to the press in Katmandu on Sunday after a helicopter went missing in eastern Nepal with 24 passengers, including the forestry minister and other international conservationists.
updated 9/25/2006 6:27:31 AM ET 2006-09-25T10:27:31

Rescuers on Monday found the wreckage of a helicopter that disappeared while carrying the forestry minister and 23 other people, including foreign officials, aid workers and journalists, an official said.

Minraj Upadhyaya of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said rescuers found several bodies in the wreckage but that only one had been identified.

The helicopter chartered by conservation group WWF was carrying Nepal Forest Minister Gopal Rai, Finnish Embassy Charge d'Affaires Pauli Mustonen, and USAID Deputy Director in Nepal Margaret Alexander. It had been missing since Saturday.

The search for the missing helicopter had been hampered by rain and fog in the mountainous area. Mountain guides, soldiers, police and local villagers combed the area on foot to search for the helicopter, chartered by the environmental group WWF for a visit to a conservation project.

The area is about 250 miles east of Nepal's capital, Katmandu.

WWF said seven of its employees were among the missing, including four Nepalis, an Australian, a Canadian and an American.

Several Nepali journalists, government officials and four crew members -- two Russians and two Nepalis -- also were on board.

A team of seven rescuers, who had been dropped into the area on Sunday, reached the crash site on Monday afternoon. Weather conditions deteriorated, forcing rescue helicopters to again suspend their flights, Upadhaya said.

The helicopter left Ghunsa village -- where the passengers had been visiting a WWF project -- on Saturday morning, but failed to arrive at Suketar village, its intended destination, a 20-minute flight away. Both villages are in the Taplejung district.

The Russian-built MI-17 helicopter was chartered from Shree Helicopter Co., the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said.

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