Iran President Raisi's fate unclear after helicopter 'hard landing', rescue teams rush to spot (2nd Lead)

 - Sakshi Post

Tehran, May 20 (IANS) A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and several other senior leaders, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, was missing in the country's east Azerbaijan on Sunday after an 'incident' amid bad weather, and rescue teams were scouring the area to trace it amid dense fog and heavy rain.

As darkness and adverse weather conditions hampered the search by armed forces personnel, including of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), amid confusion over contradictory reports over the detection of the helicopter, there were reports that signals from it and the mobile phone of a member of the flight crew have been detected.

"We are now moving toward the area with all military forces and I hope we can give good news to the people," IRGC regional commander Asghar Abbasgholizadeh was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.

He also said that the "area no longer has capacity for more forces", given that 40 teams were already in the area.

IRGC Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami was also reaching the area to help lead search-and-rescue efforts.

Meanwhile, a local weather official said the area where the President’s helicopter went down is expected to keep seeing rain and dense fog through the night.

Raisi was returning from meeting his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in the border area, where the two leaders inaugurated the Qiz Qalasi Dam, a joint project, when the incident occurred.

As per Iranian media, the helicopter - one of three travelling in a convoy - made a "hard landing" after it got into difficulties in heavy fog in northern Iran.

Tasnim said that there were three helicopters in the convoy, two of which carrying ministers and officials had "arrived at their destination safely".

It was still unclear what happened exactly to the third, with most Iranian media outlets reporting it made a "hard landing".

"However, some of the president's companions on this helicopter were able to communicate with Central Headquarters, raising hopes that the incident could have ended without casualties," Tasnim said in a post on X.

Iranian state television also reported that the helicopter carrying the President suffered a "hard landing".

Mehr News Agency initially reported that Raisi labelled reports of the accident as a "rumour" and said that the President and his convoy were travelling from Khodaafarin to Tabriz by land. However, it later deleted this update.

Earlier, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi admitted that rescuers were still struggling to reach the site of the accident due to the difficult weather conditions.

Ahmad Alirezabeigi, the MP of Tabriz, had also said that emergency rescue workers were trying to find the location of the helicopter in a forested area near the town of Varzeqan, and around 50 km north of Tabriz, the capital of the east Azerbaijan province.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed concern about the incident and also sought to assure the people.

"We hope that God returns the honourable president and his companions to the arms of the nation."

"All must pray for the health of this group of civil servants. The Iranian nation must not be concerned or worried, there will be no disruption in the work of the country," he said at an event.

Azerbaijan's Aliev expressed his concern and offered to extend any help needed. Offers of help have also come in from Russia, Iraq, Armenia, and Saudi Arabia, while Turkey has despatched a mountain rescue team, as per reports.

The European Commission is also activating its rapid response satellite mapping service to aid search efforts, following a request for assistance from Iran, Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he was "deeply concerned" about the incident and that his country stood in solidarity with Iran's people.

In case of any mishappening, Raisi, who has been President since 2021, could be succeeded by his First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, who will hold the office till elections for a new President.

Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by the Sakshi Post team and is auto-generated from syndicated feed.

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