At least 29 killed in Nepal plane crash

15 Jan 2023 05:30pm
Rescuers inspect the site of a plane crash in Pokhara. Photo by Yunish Gurung/AFP
Rescuers inspect the site of a plane crash in Pokhara. Photo by Yunish Gurung/AFP

POKHARA, NEPAL - Twenty-nine people were confirmed to have died Sunday when a plane with 72 on board crashed in Nepal, the airline said.

One local official said that some survivors had been taken to hospital -- but this was not confirmed by Yeti Airlines, which operated the flight, or by a second official.

"29 bodies have been recovered so far," Yeti spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula told AFP.

He added that 15 foreigners including five Indians, four Russians and two Koreans, were on board.

The flight from Kathmandu crashed between Pokhara's domestic and international airports on Sunday shortly before 11:00 am (0515 GMT).

Pokhara's international airport, which opened on January 1 is meant to gradually replace the old one, established in 1958. The city in central Nepal is a gateway to religious pilgrims and international trekkers.

After the crash, rescue workers were hosing down parts of the wreckage of the ATR 72 twin-engine turboprop while smoke drifted out of a ravine as hundreds of people watched.

The area was strewn with what appeared to be parts of the aircraft, including seats.

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Footage shared on social media, which appeared to be shot just after the crash, showed raging flames on the ground and black smoke billowing into the sky from debris strewn across the crash site.

AFP was unable to immediately verify the footage.

Another unverified clip shared online showed a plane flying at a low altitude over a residential area banking sharply to the left, followed by a loud explosion.

The disaster was the latest to blight the Himalayan nation's poor aviation safety record.

- Poor record -

Nepal's air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas as well as foreign trekkers and climbers.

But it has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance.

The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.

The Himalayan country also has some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.

Aircraft operators have said Nepal lacks infrastructure for accurate weather forecasts, especially in remote areas with challenging mountainous terrain where deadly crashes have taken place in the past.

The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.

In May 2022, all 22 people on board a plane operated by Nepali carrier Tara Air -- 16 Nepalis, four Indians and two Germans -- died when it crashed.

Air traffic control lost contact with the twin-propeller Twin Otter shortly after it took off from Pokhara and headed for Jomsom, a popular trekking destination.

Its wreckage was found a day later, strewn across a mountainside at around 14,500 feet (4,400 metres) above sea level.

After that crash authorities tightened regulations, including that planes would only be cleared to fly only if there was favourable weather forecast throughout the route.

In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crash-landed near Kathmandu's notoriously difficult international airport, killing 51 people.

That accident was Nepal's deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.

Just two months earlier, a Thai Airways aircraft had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people. - AFP

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