Police have confirmed at least 68 people were killed today when a domestic flight crashed into a gorge while landing at a newly opened airport in the central resort town of Pokhara.
Harrowing footage showed the plane moments before the disaster – which is the small Himalayan country’s worst crash in nearly five years.
Hundreds of rescue workers continued to scour the hillside site where the plane of domestic carrier Yeti Airlines, flying from the capital Kathmandu, went down.
‘Rescue operations are on. Weather was clear,’ said Jagannath Niroula, a spokesman for Nepal civil aviation authority, which confirmed the latest death toll as 44. Elsewhere, Gurudatta Dhakal, assistant chief official of Kaski district, said some survivors had been taken to hospital.
Local television showed thick black smoke billowing from the crash site as rescue workers and crowds of people gathered around the wreckage of the aircraft.
Rescue teams work at the crash site of a Yeti Airlines ATR72 aircraft in Pokhara, central Nepal
Pieces of the wreckage have been salvaged from the gorge in Pokhara, Nepal, where 68 people are confirmed to have lost their lives
Hundreds of rescue workers, members of the armed forces and locals crowd around the crash site in Pokhara, Nepal
There were 72 people on the twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, including two infants and ten foreign nationals
Rescuers gather at the site of a plane crash in Pokhara today
Crowds gather at the crash site of an aircraft carrying 72 people in Pokhara in western Nepal
The plane was attempting to land into the newly opened airport in Pokhara when it crashed into the gorge
A spokesman for Nepal’s army said they expected to find more bodies in the wreckage
IRISH GOVERMENT IS ‘AWARE’ OF NATIONAL LOST IN DISASTER
The Irish Government is “aware” of reports that an Irish person was among the passengers on a plane that crashed in Nepal.
At least 68 people are thought to have died after the passenger aircraft crashed into a gorge while landing at a newly opened airport in central Nepal on Sunday.
Rescue and recovery efforts are ongoing, with videos on social media showing smoke billowing from the crash site.
A spokesman said the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs was aware of reports that an Irish citizen was among the passengers on board.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of reports of the involvement of an Irish citizen in an airplane crash in Nepal, and stands ready to provide consular assistance if requested,” it said.
A total of 15 foreign nationals were on board the plane, according to Nepal’s aviation authority.
The plane had been travelling from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara International Airport, which began operations only two weeks ago.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.
Local TV showed rescue workers scrambling around broken sections of the aircraft. Some of the ground near the crash site was scorched, with licks of flames visible.
‘The plane is burning,’ said police official Ajay K.C., adding that rescue workers were having difficulty reaching the site in a gorge between two hills near the tourist town’s airport.
The craft made contact with the airport from Seti Gorge at 10:50 a.m. (0505 GMT), the aviation authority said in a statement. ‘Then it crashed.’
‘Half of the plane is on the hillside,’ said Arun Tamu, a local resident, who told Reuters he reached the site minutes after the plane went down. ‘The other half has fallen into the gorge of the Seti river.’
Khum Bahadur Chhetri said he watched from the roof of his house as the flight approached.
‘I saw the plane trembling, moving left and right, and then suddenly its nose dived and it went into the gorge,’ Chhetri told Reuters, adding that local residents took two passengers to a hospital.
The crash is Nepal’s deadliest 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 Aviation Safety Network.
In May 2022, all 22 people died on board a plane operated by Nepali carrier Tara Air – including 16 Nepalis, four Indians and two Germans – when it crashed o a slope.
There were 72 people on the twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft operated by Yeti in today’s disaster, including two infants and four crew members, said airline spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula.
The plane had five Indians, four Russians, one Irish, two South Korean, one Australian, one French and one Argentinian national onboard, a Nepal airport official said.
The plane was 15 years old, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
The plane, operated by domestic carrier Yeti Airlines (pictured) was 15 years old, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24
‘We expect to recover more bodies,’ said army spokesman Krishna Bhandari. ‘The plane has broken into pieces.’
Russian Ambassador to Nepal Alexei Novikov confirmed the death of four Russians aboard the crashed plane.
‘Unfortunately, four citizens of the Russian Federation died. We are in constant contact with the Nepalese authorities and will provide all necessary assistance to the relatives of the dead Russians,’ he said.
A South Korean embassy official said: ‘Two South Koreans are on the list of passengers. We are trying to confirm whether they were actually on board and their identities.’
Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda (centre), receives information from officials about the tragedy in Pokhara
44 bodies are reported to have been recovered from the wreckage of the plane
Locals watch the wreckage of a passenger plane in Pokhara
Life in the central resort of Pokhara has ground to a standstill after the shocking crash earlier today
Hundreds of onlookers rushed to the crash site, where the remains of the plane were engulfed in flames
Rescue workers near the charred wreckage of the Yeti Airlines plane in Pokhara
So far, rescue workers have recovered the remains of 44 people from the crash site, with many more unaccounted for
Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said he was ‘deeply saddened by the sad and tragic accident.’
Nepalese Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia tweeted condolences.
‘The loss of lives in a tragic plane crash in Nepal is extremely unfortunate. My thoughts & prayers are with the families of the bereaved,’ said the official.
The ATR72 is a widely used twin engine turboprop plane manufactured by a joint venture of Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 planes, according to its website.
Air accidents are not uncommon in Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest, as the weather can change suddenly and make for hazardous conditions.
Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said he was ‘deeply saddened by the sad and tragic accident’ and held an emergency cabinet meeting
Thick plumes of smoke followed in the aftermath of the tragic crash
Crowds gather as rescue teams work to retrieve bodies at the crash site of the aircraft
The plane crashed into a gorge after takeoff from the Pokhara International Airport
Hundreds of locals in Pokhara look down into the gorge as rescue workers continue the task of retrieving bodies from the crash site
Prime Minister Dahal has called an emergency cabinet meeting after the plane crash, a government statement said.
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.
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