KATHMANDU, Jan 15 – At least 40 people were killed when a domestic flight crashed in Nepal’s Pokhara on Sunday, an aviation authority official said, in the tiny Himalayan country’s worst crash in nearly five years.
Hundreds of rescuers searched the hillside where the Yeti Airlines plane crashed with 72 people on board from the capital, Kathmandu. The weather was clear, said Jagannath Niroula, a spokesman for Nepal’s civil aviation authority.
Local television showed rescue workers scrambling around the broken parts of the plane. Part of the ground near the crash site was scorched and tears of flames could be seen.
“The plane is on fire,” said police official Ajay K.C. with rescuers having difficulty reaching the site in a ravine between two hills near the tourist town’s airport.
The plane connected to the airport from Seti Gorge at 10:50 a.m. (05:05 GMT), the civil aviation authority said in a statement. “Then it crashed.
“Half of the plane is on the slope,” said Arun Tamu, a local resident who told Reuters he arrived at the scene minutes after the plane went down. “The other half fell into the gorge of the Seti River.
Khum Bahadur Chhetri said he watched the flight approach from the roof of his house.
“I saw the plane shaking, moving left and right, and then suddenly its nose dipped and fell into a ravine,” Chhetri told Reuters, adding that locals took the two passengers to hospital.
SERIES OF CRSHESH
The accident is the deadliest in Nepal since March 2018, when a US-Bangla Dash 8 turboprop flight from Dhaka crashed on landing in Kathmandu, killing 51 of the 71 people on board, according to the Aviation Safety Network.
At least 309 people have died since 2000 in plane or helicopter crashes in Nepal – home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest – where the weather can change suddenly and create dangerous conditions. The European Union has banned Nepalese airlines from entering its airspace since 2013, citing security concerns.
The twin-engine ATR 72 plane was carrying two infants and four crew members, airline spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said. Among the passengers were five Indians, four Russians and one Irish, two South Koreans, one Australian, one French and one Argentine national.
The ATR72 is a widely used twin-engine turboprop aircraft produced by a joint venture between Airbus ( AIR.PA ) and Italy’s Leonardo. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 aircraft, according to its website.
Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 said on Twitter that the Yeti Airlines plane was 15 years old and equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data.
“We are downloading high-resolution data and verifying data quality,” it said.
On its website, Yeti describes itself as Nepal’s leading domestic carrier.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal called an emergency cabinet meeting after the plane crash.