US will find Marines missing in Nepal, commander says

The U.S. military is keeping up its search to find the Marine helicopter that disappeared Tuesday in Nepal, with rescuers looking through a wide region outside the country's capital.

The Marines in the search-and-rescue operation are a part of Joint Task Force 505 -- named “Operation Sahayogi Haat” -- with 300 military personnel already on the ground in the wake of two devastating earthquakes that killed more than 8,000 people.

Their commander, Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, told “they have been operating for the last 48 hours nonstop trying to find these lost servicemen – there are six Marines on that helicopter, plus two members of the Nepal Army … it’s our No. 1 priority.”

The area where Kennedy's unit is based is near the epicenter of Tuesday's magnitude 7.3 earthquake. “So we switched from delivering relief supplies initially to doing search and rescue … and in the course of these rescues that is when this helicopter went missing.”

Kennedy says the team has gotten leads from local villagers. They have “been calling in through various means on the telephone, going down to district police headquarters, some have even been tweeting – all of those leads we have been taking seriously.” Yet, he added, some have confused the missing helicopter with several others helping with humanitarian and rescue efforts.

This collaboration between the military and locals he hopes “can narrow down the areas we are looking at through multiple sources; that’s the best way to rescue our Marines.”

Even while military officials search for the helicopter, they continue to assist earthquake victims.

According to the Defense Department, U.S. Marine Huey and Osprey aircraft have delivered nearly 175,000 pounds of emergency relief supplies so far.

“In the course of searching for our Marines, we are able to deliver supplies to the towns that are in the area that has been affected … and then they are returning back to Kathmandu loaded with . . . aid,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy's unit is operating hours on end to help those in need of rescue. “We are working in our search and rescue tonight with both the Nepal Army and the Indian Air Force to augment our search efforts.”