68 killed in Nepal plane crash

Kathmandu launches probe to find out cause of accident
People gather near the site where a twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft crashed while landing in Pokhara, Nepal, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

At least 68 people were confirmed dead yesterday after a plane with 72 on board crashed in Nepal, police said, in the Himalayan country's worst aviation disaster in three decades.

Those on board the ATR 72 twin-engine turboprop aircraft that plummeted into a steep gorge, smashed into pieces and burst into flames in the central city of Pokhara included six children, officials told AFP.

The crash is Nepal's deadliest since 1992, the Aviation Safety Network database showed, when a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A300 crashed into a hillside upon approach to Kathmandu, killing all 167 people on board.

As the light faded late yesterday and soldiers extracted bodies with ropes and stretchers out of the 300-metre-deep (1,000-foot) ravine, there was no word on the fate of the four people still unaccounted for.

"We are actively working to retrieve and identify the bodies as soon as possible and hand (them) over to their families," police official AK Chhetri told AFP at the crash site, which was still smouldering and strewn with aircraft debris, including the mangled remains of wings and passenger seats.

A local official had earlier said that "some survivors" had been taken to hospital, but this was not confirmed by the aircraft's operator Yeti Airlines or other officials.

According to reports, the aircraft of Yeti Airlines took off from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport at 10:33am. While landing at the Pokhara airport around 11:00am, the aircraft crashed on the bank of the Seti River between the old airport and the new airport.

The Kathmandu-Pokhara flight takes around 25 minutes.

The Yeti Airlines flight 9N-ANC ATR-72 was on its third sortie since the morning. It first flew from Kathmandu to Pokhara and back to Kathmandu earlier in the day, Hindustan Times reported.

A total of 68 passengers and four crew members were on board the aircraft when it crashed.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the passengers included 53 Nepalis, five Indians, four Russians, one Irish, one Australian, one Argentinian, two Koreans and one French.

The plane made contact with the airport from Seti Gorge at 10:50am (0505 GMT), the aviation authority said in its 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.

Nepal has announced a public holiday to mark a national day of mourning for the victims of the tragedy. The government has set up a panel to investigate the cause of the crash and it is expected to report within 45 days, the finance minister, Bishnu Paudel, told reporters.

In a letter to Nepalese PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday expressed her deepest condolences at the loss of lives in the tragedy.

It was unclear if anyone on the ground was injured.

The journey to Pokhara, Nepal's second largest city tucked under the picturesque Annapurna mountain range, from the capital Kathmandu is one of the Himalayan country's most popular tourist routes, with many preferring a short flight instead of a six-hour-long drive through hilly roads.

Pokhara Airport spokesman Anup Joshi said the aircraft crashed as it approached the airport, adding that the "plane cruised at 12,500 feet and was on a normal descent." The weather was clear.

Gyanendra Bhul, information officer at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, also said the weather was not the problem. He hinted at technical reasons for the crash citing primary information.

Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 said on Twitter the Yeti Airlines aircraft was 15 years old and equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data. It added that the last signal from the transponder was received at 0512 GMT at an altitude of 2,875 feet above mean sea level.

Pokhara Airport is located at about 2,700-2,800 feet above mean sea level, according to FlightRadar24.

Nepal's air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas, as well as ferrying foreign mountain 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 for even accomplished pilots.

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

Nearly 350 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 sudden weather changes can make for hazardous conditions.


হেফাজতে নির্যাতনে অভিযুক্ত ‘তদন্তে নির্দোষ’ ২ পুলিশ ৮০ দিন পর যোগ দিলেন থানায়
১১ মিনিট আগে|অপরাধ ও বিচার

হেফাজতে নির্যাতনে অভিযুক্ত ‘তদন্তে নির্দোষ’ ২ পুলিশ ৮০ দিন পর যোগ দিলেন থানায়

পুলিশের অপরাধ তদন্ত বিভাগ (সিআইডি) আদালতে এই প্রতিবেদন দেওয়ার পর ৮০ দিন ‘অসুস্থতাজনিত’ ছুটি শেষে থানায় যোগ দিয়েছেন চট্টগ্রামের পাঁচলাইশ থানার অভিযুক্ত ওসি নাজিম উদ্দিন এবং এসআই আবদুল আজিজ।