Two dead in Lebanon military helicopter crash

Air force helicopter came down in a mountainous area east of Beirut, but the cause of the crash has not been given.

A tourist finishes his helicopter tour with the Lebanese Air Force at Rayak Airbase in the Beqaa Valley, Lebanon. The Lebanese Army offering tourists helicopter tours to survive
The Lebanese army began giving helicopter rides to tourists in an attempt to raise money, as the country endures an economic crisis [File: Tariq Zaidi/Al Jazeera]

Two Lebanese military personnel have been killed in a helicopter crash during a training flight in a mountainous area east of Beirut, the Lebanese army has said in a statement.

“An air force helicopter crashed in the Hammana area during a training flight, killing two personnel and injuring one other,” the statement said on Wednesday.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, and the statement did not say what type of helicopter was involved.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has contacted the head of the army, Joseph Aoun, for details concerning the clash, the prime minister’s office said.

Lebanon’s economy has been in free fall since late 2019.

The economic crisis – which the World Bank says is one of the planet’s worst in modern times – has plunged more than 80 percent of the population into poverty.

It has also taken a toll on public institutions, including the military, where soldiers have seen the value of their salaries severely reduced as the Lebanese pound lost value.

After the meltdown began, the army cut back on basics such as meat in soldiers’ meals and in 2021 it even introduced helicopter joyrides for tourists in a bid to raise money for the maintenance of its fleet.

Lebanon’s financial struggles have made it difficult for the army to maintain its budget for equipment, maintenance and supplies.

In 2021, Aoun warned that the crisis would bring about a collapse of Lebanon’s army, along with other state institutions.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies