Plane with 72 people on board crashes in Nepal, at least 32 killed

Some people may find the images in this story upsetting.

A 72-seat Nepalese passenger plane crashed into a valley on Sunday as it was landing at a newly opened airport in the central resort town of Pokhara, killing at least 32 people, an official said.

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Tek Bahadur KC, a senior administrative official in the Kaski district, said rescuers were searching the crash site near the Seti River, 1.6 km from Pokhara International Airport, and they expect to find more bodies.

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A passenger plane with 72 people on board crashed near Nepal's Pokhara International Airport.

Yunish Gurung/AP

A passenger plane with 72 people on board crashed near Nepal’s Pokhara International Airport.

It is not yet clear what caused the plane to crash.

Nepal’s twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Yeti Airlines, was carrying 68 passengers and four crew members, 15 of whom were foreign nationals, the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.

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Among the foreigners were five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.

The aviation authority said that before the plane crashed, it last contacted the airport at 10:50 am local time, near the Seti Strait.

Relatives of the passenger plane that crashed at Nepal's Kathmandhu Airport on Sunday are crying.

Bikram Rai/AP

Relatives of the passenger plane that crashed at Nepal’s Kathmandhu Airport on Sunday are crying.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who rushed to the airport after the accident, said the plane flew from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara. He urged security personnel and the public to assist in the rescue effort.

Images and videos shared on Twitter showed clouds of smoke rising from the crash scene as rescuers, Nepali soldiers and crowds of people gathered around the plane’s wreckage.

ATR identified the aircraft involved in Sunday’s crash as the ATR 72-500 in a tweet. According to aircraft tracking data from Flightradar24.com, the aircraft was 15 years old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data”. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 aircraft, company spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said.

Located 200km west of Kathmandu, Pokhara is the gateway to the Annapurna Track, a popular hiking trail in the Himalayas. Pokhara International Airport became operational just two weeks ago.

Home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, Nepal has a history of air crashes.

Images and videos shared on Twitter showed clouds of smoke rising from the crash scene as rescuers and crowds of people gathered around the plane’s wreckage. Nepalese soldiers also participated in the rescue efforts at the crash site.

“We hope to find more bodies,” said Nepal army spokesman Krishna Bhandari. “The plane broke into pieces.”

Locals look at the wreckage of a passenger plane in Pokhara, Nepal.

AP

Locals look at the wreckage of a passenger plane in Pokhara, Nepal.

The related aircraft type, the ATR 72, has been used by various airlines around the world for short regional flights. Introduced by a French and Italian partnership in the late 1980s, the aircraft model has been involved in many fatal accidents over the years.

In 2018, an ATR 72 operated by Iran’s Aseman Airlines crashed in a foggy, mountainous region, killing all 65 people on board.

Yeti Airlines said a plane flying from Kathmandu crashed at Nepal's Pokhara International airport.

@FlyYeti/Twitter

Yeti Airlines said a plane flying from Kathmandu crashed at Nepal’s Pokhara International airport.

Home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, Nepal has a history of air crashes. According to the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety database, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.

Last year, 22 people were killed when a plane crashed into a mountainside in Nepal. In 2016, a Tara Air Twin Otter flying from Pokhara to Kathmandu crashed after takeoff, killing all 23 people on board.

In 2012, an Agni Air jet flying from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed, killing 15 people. Six people survived. In 2014, a Nepal Airlines plane flying from Pokhara to Jumla crashed, killing all 18 people on board.

In 1992, all 167 people aboard were killed when a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed into a hill while trying to land in Kathmandu.

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