2 Killed as Japanese Military Helicopter Crashes in Residential Area

2 Killed as Japanese Military Helicopter Crashes in Residential Area

Monday, 5 February, 2018 - 11:00
Two crew members were killed when a Japanese military helicopter crashed in Kanzaki, southwestern Japan. (AFP file photo)
Asharq Al-Awsat
A military helicopter crashed in a residential area in southwest Japan on Monday, leaving its two crew dead.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera confirmed the crash in the town of Kanzaki and said the two crew on board were retrieved "in a state of cardiac and respiratory arrest," Jiji news agency reported.

The language is often used by Japanese officials before deaths are officially confirmed.

The crash ripped the top floor off a house and set it on fire, officials said.

The four residents of the damaged house were believed to have been away at the time of the accident, said Masaki Endo, a disaster official at the Saga prefectural government. No one else on the ground was believed to have been hurt, he added.

Local firefighters could be seen running through the streets with red firehoses as people were evacuated from the area. The local fire authority said it had dispatched 14 fire engines and three ambulances to the site.

"I heard something like a rumbling of the earth," a woman living near the crash site told Japan’s NHK television.

"I rushed out there and saw a blaze and black smoke. It's impossible that this happens in such a place."

Onodera earlier told reporters the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter had gone down in Japan's Saga region and "burst into flames." He said the cause of the accident is under investigation.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the grounding of all 12 helicopters of the same type for safety checks, Kyodo News agency reported.

The incident raised memories of a 2016 crash in which a Japanese air force jet with six people aboard went missing in mountainous terrain. Four bodies were later recovered.

There has also been a string of accidents involving US military helicopters that have fueled opposition to their presence in the country.

The latest was a UH-1 helicopter that was forced into an emergency landing last month on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

No one was hurt in that incident, which officials blamed on a faulty rotor blade.

Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have been banned from waging any kind of combat beyond defense of the nation since the US-imposed constitution of 1947 that followed the carnage of World War II.

They have been deployed overseas in peacekeeping missions, some of which have proved controversial at home.

And while the SDF is strictly limited in terms of the scope of its military activity, Japan nonetheless boasts an impressive array of weaponry with highly trained personnel.

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