Conflicting reports have emerged on the number of people who survived and the number of people missing after the Mi-8 helicopter fell in Lake Kurile.
A helicopter with 16 people on board, mostly tourists, crashed in the Kamchatka Peninsula in far eastern Russia, the local government said, with seven passengers missing.
The Mi-8 helicopter fell in Kuril Lake in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, he said in a statement on Thursday.
According to the AP news agency, the helicopter is believed to be at a depth of about 100 meters (328 feet) in Lake Kurile, which is up to 316 meters (1,037 feet) deep with an area of 77 square kilometers. (30 square miles). .
According to preliminary information, “there were three crew members and 13 passengers on board”.
Forty rescuers and divers were dispatched to the scene. Kamchatka is more than 6,000 km (3,728 miles) east of Moscow.
According to a local source from the Ministry of Health, nine people were rescued.
“Nine people have been found, they are all alive,” the source told Interfax news agency, adding that the search operation was continuing.
The fate of the other seven was not immediately known.
An investigation has been opened for violation of aviation safety rules, said the Russian Investigation Committee, which manages investigations into air accidents.
Meanwhile, the Interfax news agency quoted officials as saying the helicopter was carrying three crew members and 14 tourists when it crashed in thick fog.
Interfax initially quoted regional officials as saying nine people, including two pilots, survived the crash, but later reported only eight survivors were found as the search for the others continued.
The varying numbers could not be immediately reconciled. The reports did not list the nationalities of the tourists, but indicated that most of them were from Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The area where the crash occurred can only be reached by helicopters and fog made rescue efforts difficult, RIA Novosti reported.
The Vityaz-Aero helicopter transported tourists to Khodutka, a volcano near the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Russian reports have indicated that Vityaz-Aero is half-owned by Igor Redkin, a millionaire businessman and member of the Kamchatka regional legislature. Redkin was placed under house arrest earlier this week after shooting and killing a man rummaging through a trash can. Redkin said the shooting was accidental after mistaking the victim for a bear.
Kamchatka is a vast territory with few inhabitants but is visited by tourists for its volcanoes and landscapes.
In July, all 28 people aboard the Antonov An-26 turboprop died in an accident in Kamchatka.
Russia historically had a poor aviation safety record, but has significantly improved its aviation standards since the 2000s.
The country’s major airlines have shifted from aging Soviet airplanes to more modern airplanes.
But maintenance issues and lax compliance with safety rules remained a problem.