Authorities in Nepal confirmed 68 deaths after a regional passenger plane carrying 72 people crashed into a gorge while landing at a newly opened airport in the resort town of Pokhara. It’s the deadliest plane crash in the country in three decades.
The announcement was made on Twitter by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority on Sunday, while rescuers were scouring the crash site near the Seti River, about 1.6 kilometres (nearly a mile) from Pokhara International Airport.
Rescuers used ropes to pull bodies from the wreckage, which was partially hanging over the edge of the gorge. Some burned-out bodies were carried by firefighters to hospitals where bereaved relatives had gathered.
It was unclear what caused the plane to crash at the time.
A witness to the crash said he saw the plane spinning violently in the air after it attempted to land from his house’s terrace. According to Gaurav Gurung, the plane crashed nose-first to the left and then into the gorge.
“After the crash, the plane caught fire. “There was smoke everywhere,” said Gurung.
The aircraft last made contact with the airport near Seti Gorge at 10:50 a.m. before crashing, according to the aviation authority.
The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, was on a 27-minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara. According to Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, the plane was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members. There were five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina, and France among the foreigners.
Tek Bahadur K. C., a senior administrative officer in the Kaski district, predicted that more bodies would be discovered at the bottom of the gorge.
Images and videos shared on Twitter showed plumes of smoke billowing from the crash site as rescue workers, Nepali soldiers, and crowds gathered around the plane’s wreckage in search of survivors. The fuselage of the aircraft was disassembled and scattered down the gorge.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who rushed to the airport after the crash, established an investigation panel.
“It was a tragic incident. “The entire Nepali army and police force has been deployed for rescue,” he said.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it is still trying to determine the fate of two South Korean passengers and has dispatched personnel to the scene.
The plane in question, the ATR 72, has been used for short regional flights by several airlines around the world. The aircraft model, which was introduced in the late 1980s by a French-Italian partnership, has been involved in several fatal accidents over the years. An ATR 72 operated by Iran’s Aseman Airlines crashed in a foggy, mountainous region in 2018, killing all 65 people on board.
In a tweet, ATR identified the plane involved in the crash on Sunday as an ATR 72-500. According to flightradar24.com data, the aircraft was 15 years old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data.” According to Airfleets.net, it was previously flown by India’s Kingfisher Airlines and Thailand’s Nok Air before Yeti took over in 2019. Yeti Airlines operates six ATR72-500 planes, according to company spokesperson Sudarshan Bartaula.
Pokhara, located 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of Kathmandu, is the starting point for the Annapurna Circuit, a popular Himalayan hiking trail.
Pokhara International Airport only recently began operations. It was constructed with Chinese construction and financial assistance. Chen Song, the Chinese ambassador to Nepal, tweeted that he was “very shocked” to learn of the accident.
“At this difficult time, our thoughts are with Nepali people. “I’d like to express my heartfelt condolences to the victims and my heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved families,” he wrote.
The crash on Sunday was Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed into a hill while attempting to land in Kathmandu, killing all 167 people on board.
Nepal has a history of air crashes, as it is home to eight of the world’s fourteen highest mountains, including Mount Everest. Since 1946, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal, according to the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety database.
A plane crashed on a mountainside in Nepal last year, killing 22 people. A Tara Air Twin Otter flying from Pokhara to Kathmandu in 2016 crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 23 people on board.
An Agni Air plane flying from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed in 2012, killing 15 people. Six people were rescued. A Nepal Airlines plane flying from Pokhara to Jumla crashed in 2014, killing all 18 people on board.
In 1992, a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed into a hill while attempting to land in Kathmandu, killing all 167 people on board.
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