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Local elections stall after Turkish politician missing in helicopter crash

ISTANBUL — In the snow-covered mountains of central Turkey a helicopter carrying six people crashed on Wednesday, transfixing the country as the desperate search continues through rough terrain and formidable weather conditions.

Turkish political leaders have suspended all last-minute campaigning prior to upcoming local elections out of respect for Muhsin Yazicioglu, leader of the Great Unity Party, a nationalist organization that is running in local elections Sunday. The political banners plastering the city remain but the streets of Istanbul are oddly quiet after weeks of frenzied campaigning.

The humanity of the situation, and the desperation of those involved in the crash, were driven in by a desperate call for rescue to an emergency hotline from Ismail Gunes, a cameraman for Turkish news agency IHA, from the crash site.

"My leg's badly broken. Madam, have you still not located us? We will freeze," he said in a recorded conversation that was broadcast on television stations Thursday. "I think the others are dead. I cannot move my foot. It is badly broken. When will you locate us, madam?"

At least 2,000 soldiers, villagers and other rescue workers searched Thursday for the wreckage of the helicopter, which went down in poor weather conditions on Wednesday afternoon. Fog and snowstorms hampered the search missions by air and there is no word yet as to the fate of the passengers.

The group had just left an election rally in Turkey's southern Kahramanmaras province where they were campaigning for local elections, which will take place across the country this Sunday.