Nepal bars UK aid helicopters, may damage buildings when landing

By Kieran Guilbert LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain said on Tuesday it was negotiating with the Nepalese authorities after three British military helicopters sent to help the earthquake relief effort were denied entry because of fears they could damage buildings while landing. The Royal Air Force aircraft arrived in New Delhi last week to join the international rescue operation and are awaiting permission to enter Nepal, according to The Times newspaper. The Nepalese foreign ministry said the Chinook helicopters were too big and might damage houses when taking off and landing. "We have told the British authorities that they cannot fly their Chinook helicopters here because our technical team says they are likely to damage the houses and other buildings in the Kathmandu Valley," a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying. A British government spokesman said the Chinooks were chosen to minimize any risk of damage to buildings and had been sent after U.N. agencies indicated that extra helicopters were needed to deliver aid to remote areas inaccessible by road. "It is disappointing that the Chinooks and crews are in the area but are not yet operational, and discussions with the Nepalese authorities are ongoing," the spokesman said. A 7.3 magnitude earthquake killed at least 40 people and injured more than 1,000 in Nepal on Tuesday, bringing down buildings already weakened by a devastating quake just over two weeks ago. Aid agencies said damage caused by the new quake would make it even more difficult to reach remote areas devastated by last month's quake, slowing efforts to get aid to millions of people. Britain announced plans to fly out the Chinooks on April 30, five days after the first quake, Nepal's worst in more than 80 years, which killed 8,000 people and injured more than 17,800. The Department for International Development (DFID) said at the time the aircraft would help relief agencies get supplies to isolated areas. The RAF had planned to transport the helicopters to Kathmandu for reassembly, but they were diverted to India because of runway damage at Nepal's only international airport, according to The Times. (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Tim Pearce)