NEPAL: A domestic flight with 72 people onboard crashed near an airport in Pokhara, Nepal, killing at least 40 people in the small Himalayan nation’s worst crash in almost five years.
On Sunday, the Yeti Airlines flight from the nation’s capital, Kathmandu, to the popular tourist destination of Pokhara crashed and caught fire as it touched down.
There were 72 passengers on board the twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, including two infants, 10 foreign nationals, and four crew members, said Sudarshan Bartaula, an airline spokesman.
“We expect to recover more bodies,” army spokesperson Krishna Bhandari told the media.
Local media showed rescuers and throngs of onlookers gathered around the aeroplane wreckage as dense black smoke billowed from the crash site.
“Responders have already reached the scene and are trying to douse the fire. All agencies are now focused on first dousing the fire and rescuing the passengers,” Gurudutta Dhakal, a local official, said.
At 10:50 a.m. (05:05 GMT), the aircraft made contact with the airport from Seti Gorge, according to a statement from the aviation authorities. Then it crashed.
Local resident Arun Tamu told the media that he arrived at the scene shortly after the jet went down and that “half of the plane is on the hillside. The other half has fallen into the gorge of the Seti river.”
Jagannath Niroula, a spokesman for Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, reported that the weather was clear at the time of the plane crash.
Following the jet crash, Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal convened an urgent cabinet meeting, according to a government statement.
He wrote on Twitter, “I am deeply saddened by the sad and tragic accident of Yeti Airlines’ ANC ATR 72, which was flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara with passengers.”
“I sincerely appeal to the security personnel, all agencies of the Nepal government, and the general public to start an effective rescue,” his post further reads.
The plane crash is the deadliest in Nepal since March 2018, when a US-Bangla Dash 8 turboprop flight from Dhaka crashed upon landing in Kathmandu, killing 51 of the 71 passengers on board, as per the Aviation Safety Network.
In May, less than 20 minutes after departing from Pokhara, a Tara Air-owned aircraft crashed.
Since 2000, at least 309 people have perished in helicopter or plane crashes in Nepal, which is home to eight of the world’s fourteen tallest mountains, including Everest, and where the weather is unpredictable and hazardous.