U.S. military chopper makes emergency landing in Okinawa after catching fire

Huang Panyue

TOKYO, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. CH-53E transport helicopter made an emergency landing Wednesday in northern Okinawa after catching fire in sky, said the U.S. Marines.

None of the seven crew members on board the chopper was injured, said Japan's Defense Ministry.

The chopper, belonging to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, made the landing around 5:20 p.m. local time (GMT 0820).

Local fire department said it received an emergency phone call around 5:35 p.m. local time (GMT 0835) from a resident who said that a U.S. military aircraft had crashed and black smoke could be seen.

The incident happened on a piece of privately-owned vacant land in Takae village in the Kunigami district of Okinawa Prefecture, said local media quoting police sources.

It triggered refreshed safety concerns over U.S. military helicopters in Okinawa, as the site is only hundreds of meters away from a residential area.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga told a press conference that he felt very indignant about the incident and had required the U.S. military to ground choppers of the same type until the cause of the incident is determined.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said he had urged the U.S. forces in Okinawa to provide more information and to take measures to prevent the incidents from happening again.

Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. bases in Japan while accounting for only 0.6 percent of the country's total land mass. Anti-U.S. base sentiment has been high in the prefecture due to crimes involving U.S. military personnel, safety concerns and noises caused by U.S. military aircraft, among others.

A number of crashes involving U.S. military aircraft happened in Okinawa in the past few years, the most recent one of which saw a U.S. MV-22 Osprey aircraft made a crash-landing in shallow waters off Nago City, injuring two of its five crew members.


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