At least 16 missing after Russian chopper crashes into lake: Officials

MOSCOW (AFP) - At least 16 people were missing after a helicopter believed to be carrying top regional officials and businessmen crashed into a lake in north-western Russia, police and the emergencies ministry said on Sunday.

According to preliminary information, the Mi-8 helicopter was carrying up to 19 people - five crew and 14 passengers - when it crashed in a remote area in the northwestern Murmansk region on Saturday, a regional police spokeswoman said.

"Yes, indeed the helicopter is in a lake," the spokeswoman told AFP.

Two people were injured and hospitalised and the rest are considered missing, she added, noting that emergencies officials were looking for survivors.

According to a separate statement from the emergencies ministry, the helicopter was carrying 18 people, including five crew.

The helicopter belongs to a company called Apatit (Apatite), maker of components for fertilisers, a spokeswoman for the regional emergencies ministry, Tatyana Zakharova, told AFP.

Investigators named a possible aircraft malfunction and bad weather as likely causes of the crash.

Aviation crashes are frequent in Russia and are often blamed on ageing aircraft and poor maintenance.

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