Search operation underway after helicopter carrying Iranian president crashes

Incident took place in northwestern Iran’s East Azerbaijan amid inclement weather conditions, reports state media

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and some other senior officials had a “hard landing” in northwestern East Azerbaijan province on Sunday, according to Iran’s state TV.

Raisi was accompanied by Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, East Azerbaijan Governor Malik Rehmati and Friday prayer leader in the city of Tabriz Ayatollah Al-Hashem at the time of the accident.

State media said at least 20 emergency response teams from the provinces of East Azerbaijan, Ardabil and Zanjan were immediately dispatched to the site and they are currently engaged in rescue operations.

There are no reports yet about the condition of those on board the helicopter, including Raisi. Due to mountainous terrains and dense fog, the search and rescue operation is likely to take several hours.

Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state TV that the delegation led by Raisi was returning from a dam inauguration ceremony on the Azerbaijan-Iran border when the incident took place.

He said one of the helicopters in the convoy of the Iranian president had to make a “hard landing” due to inclement weather conditions, adding that multiple rescue teams have been pressed into action.

Pir Hossein Kolivand, the head of Iran’s Red Crescent Society, told state TV that 40 quick response teams have been dispatched to the area to help in the search and rescue operation.

These teams are from the cities of Tehran, Alborz, Ardabil, Zanjan and East and West Azerbaijan, including 200 rapid response and specialized rescuers, he informed.

Besides that, 15 Red Crescent ANST teams (search dogs) along with 2 Red Crescent drones have been pressed into service to search for traces of the helicopter carrying the president and his team.

Due to unfavorable weather conditions and heavy fog in the region, it is currently not possible to fly rescue helicopters of the Red Crescent and the teams are searching the area on the ground, he said.

Ali Bahadori Jahromi, the government spokesman, in a post on X said a meeting of the government Cabinet was held on Sunday and the incident in East Azerbaijan was discussed.

Mohammad Mokhber, first vice president, who chaired the meeting immediately left for the northern city of Tabriz along with some high-profile government officials, Jahromi said.

Importantly, the incident took place after Raisi joined his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev for the inauguration and commissioning ceremony of two hydraulic structures on the border with Azerbaijan.

The leaders of the two countries held bilateral talks, which were followed by the inauguration ceremony of “Khudaferin” and “Qiz Qalasi” hydraulic structures on the Araz River.

Meanwhile, state TV showed pictures of people in the revered Imam Reza shrine in Raisi’s hometown Mashhad praying for the president and others on board the helicopter.

Raisi previously headed the Mashhad shrine before becoming the country’s top judiciary official and later on, took the helm of the government in 2021 with a landslide win in elections.

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