KATHMANDU, Jan 15 (Reuters) – At least 64 people were killed on Sunday when a domestic flight crashed in Pokhara, Nepal, in the tiny Himalayan country’s worst air crash in three decades.
Hundreds of rescuers scrambled to the hillside where the Yeti Airlines flight carrying 72 people from the capital Kathmandu went down.
Local TV showed rescue workers scrambling around the wreckage of the plane. Some of the ground near the crash site was charred, with fire marks visible.
“We have sent 31 bodies to the hospital and are still recovering 33 bodies from the ghat,” said police official Ajay KC, adding that rescue workers had difficulty reaching the spot at a ghat between two hills near the tourist town’s airport.
The crash was Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, the Aviation Safety Network database shows, when a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A300 crashed into a hillside en route to Kathmandu, killing all 167 people on board.
The aircraft approached the airport from Tet Gorge at 10:50 am (0505 GMT), the aviation authority said in a statement. “Then it crashed.”
“Half of the plane is on the hillside,” said local resident Arun Tamu, who told Reuters he arrived at the scene minutes after the plane landed. The other half falls into the gorge of the Seti river.
Khum Bahadur Chhetri said he watched the flight as it approached from the roof of his house.
“I saw the plane shaking, moving left and right, and then suddenly its nose dipped and it went into the ditch,” Chhetri told Reuters, adding that local residents took the two passengers to hospital.
The government has set up a panel to probe the cause of the crash and it is expected to report within 45 days, Finance Minister Vishnu Paudel told reporters.
Series of crashes
At least 309 people have died in airplanes or helicopters since 2000 Devastated in Nepal – home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest – where sudden changes in weather can make for dangerous conditions.
The European Union has banned Nepalese airlines from its airspace since 2013, citing security concerns.
The airline’s spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said the twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft included two children and four crew members.
The journey from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara, Nepal’s second-largest city tucked beneath the picturesque Annapurna Mountains, is one of the Himalayan country’s most popular tourist routes, with many preferring a short flight to a six-hour drive over mountain roads. .
Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal spokesman Jagannath Nirula said the weather was clear on Sunday.
Among the passengers are five Indians, four Russians and one Irishman, two South Koreans, one Australian, one French and one Argentinean.
European planemaker ATR’s ATR72 is a widely used twin-engine turboprop plane developed in a joint venture with Airbus. (AIR.PA) and Leonardo of Italy (LDOF.MI). According to the Yeti Airlines website, there are six ATR72-500 plans.
“ATR experts are fully engaged to support both the investigation and customers,” the company said on Twitter, adding that their first thoughts after being notified of the accident were for the victims.
Airbus and Leonardo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 reported on Twitter that the Yeti Airlines plane was 15 years old and was equipped with an old transponder that contained unreliable data.
“We are downloading high-resolution data and verifying data quality,” it said.
On its website, Yeti describes itself as a leading domestic carrier. It has six ATR 72-500s in its fleet, one of which crashed. It also owns Tara Air, and the two together offer a “comprehensive network” in Nepal, the company said.
Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed; Written by Devjyot Ghoshal and Aditya Kalra; Edited by William Mallard and Susan Fenton
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