By Tesfa-Alem Tekle, (ST)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – A helicopter with a team of experts on board has reportedly crashed into the Blue Nile River on Monday, a local an Ethiopian newspaper has reported.
Owned by a South African company, the helicopter, which took off from Qoncho area in the Benishangul Gumuz region was carrying out a feasibility study for the construction of an additional two hydro-power projects Ethiopia intends to launch on the Nile River.
“It flew into a cable spanning across the river used by locals to cross the gorge that is riverbed, according to sources”, the Reporter newspaper said on April 18.
“The pilot and all five experts on-board performing the studies swam to safety and emerged unharmed.”
There is no an official confirmation from government authorities and the report can’t be verified at this point.
Reached by phone, Shimels Kemal, a spokesman for the Communications Ministry of Ethiopia, could confirm the report on Tuesday.
“I just heard a helicopter crash incident in Nile River; however I haven’t yet received confirmation from the ground, but I will be able to give details tomorrow” he told Sudan Tribune.
The feasibility studies were contracted to a total of six overseas and two local firms a year ago. The firms include Norplan Consult and Nor Consult of Norway, and the UK based Scott Wilson. Tropical Consulting Engineering and Shebelle Consult are the local firms.
Ethiopia has recently launched construction of a massive $4.7 billion hydro-power project in its Nile basin near its border with Sudan. There are fears that the move might trigger a conflict with Egypt.
Both Mandaya and Beko-Abo project sites are on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, North of Addis Abeba. Mandaya dam site is located on the Blue Nile (Abay) River, 6.5 km upstream of its confluence with the Gember River, and 19 km downstream of the Abbay/Didessa confluence.
The Beko Abo site is located approximately 2 km upstream of the bridge over the Abay River on the road between Bure and Nekemt.
The funds for the studies, amounting to $17.3 million, were a grant from the Norwegian government. The surveys are scheduled for completion in 27 months.