Helicopter carrying Iran’s President suffers ‘hard landing’

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has suffered a “hard landing”, state television reported, saying more details will follow soon as search operations are under way for the helicopter.

Iranian state media said the incident occurred on Sunday near Jolfa in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province.

A day earlier, Raisi was in neighbouring Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam alongside President Ilham Aliyev.

State-linked media said three helicopters were in the convoy, and the two others made it back safely.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, the representative of the Iranian supreme leader to the province, are believed to have been in the same helicopter as Raisi.

Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian and Housing and Transportation Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash were in the other helicopters that made it back safely.

People who were with the president inside the helicopter managed to make an emergency call, according to the semiofficial Tasnim News Agency.

Tasnim reported that the call increased hopes that the incident can be concluded “without fatalities”.

Interior Minister Amir Vahidi told state television that various rescue teams were trying to reach the location of the incident, but it might take some time due to fog and bad weather conditions.

He confirmed that radio contact was made with the helicopter, but offered no further details, and suggested communication lines have been cut.

Government news website IRNA said the president’s helicopter is believed to have crashed in the Dizmar protected area, a forested and mountainous zone.

There is no confirmation on what type of helicopter was carrying the president and his team.

Iran operates a variety of helicopters, but decades of sanctions have made it difficult to purchase new aircraft or obtain parts.

Many of the military aircraft currently in service in Iran date back to before the country’s 1979 revolution.

Reporting from the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Sunday, Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar said “the helicopters, the planes, that are used in Iran are quite outdated”.

“That’s why such accidents are quite frequent in Iran,” he explained.

Serdar added that it could take hours for the rescue teams to reach the site of the crash.

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