Plane crash in Nepal: at least 29 dead, few survivors

A Yeti Airlines plane with 72 people on board crashed in Nepal on Sunday, and initial reports put at least 29 people dead and several survivors, an official said.

“There were 68 passengers on board and four crew members… help is on its way,” Sudarshan Bartaula, a spokesman for Yeti Airlines, said earlier. Three infants and three children were among the passengers. Eleven foreigners were listed on the flight documents: five Indians, four Russians, two Koreans, one Irish, one Argentinian and one French, officials said.

The plane, which took off from Kathmandu at 10:33 am (05:33 French time), crashed 200 km from the capital of Nepal, in Nayagaun, between the old and new airports of Pokhara, in the center of the country, in the canyon of the Seti River. The aircraft contacted the control tower at 10:50 a.m. before disappearing from radar. Emergency services were called at 11​​am.

Plane ‘broken into pieces’

The cabin caught fire, said local official Gurudutta Dhakal. “Rescue services have arrived at the scene and are trying to put out the fire”, he added, explaining that they were “focusing first on extinguishing the fire and rescuing the passengers”. In pictures posted on social networks, dozens of people were at the scene helping with the rescue.

Already 36 bodies have been recovered, according to India Today. According to military spokesman Krishna Bhandari, contacted by Reuters, the plane was “broken to pieces”. Nepal Police Assistant Sub-Inspector Rudra Thapa confirmed to Kathmandu Post that 25 bodies had been taken to various hospitals in Pokhara for autopsies.

The plane is 15 years old, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar. The ATR72 is a popular twin-engine turboprop aircraft, manufactured by a company jointly owned by Airbus and the Italian company Leonardo. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 aircraft, according to its website.

On the video posted on the social network, we see him spinning while losing altitude.

Nepal’s aviation industry has boomed in recent years, transporting goods and people to hard-to-reach areas, as well as tourists on hikes and mountain climbs. But it suffers from a lack of security due to inadequate training and maintenance. The European Union has banned the Nepali airline from its airspace since 2013, citing security concerns.

Among the most complicated tracks in the world

This Himalayan country also has some of the most isolated and intricate trails in the world, flanked by snow-capped peaks that challenge even seasoned pilots to get close. In this mountainous country – there are eight of the fourteen highest peaks in the world – the weather can change suddenly and make flying conditions dangerous. Airline operators claim Nepal lacks the infrastructure to make accurate weather forecasts, especially in remote areas.

At least 309 people have died since 2000 in plane or helicopter crashes. In May 2022, all 22 people on board a flight operated by Nepali company Tara Air – 16 Nepali, four Indian and two German – died when the plane crashed. Air traffic control had lost contact with the twin-propeller plane shortly after taking off from Pokhara bound for Jomsom, a popular trekking destination. The wreckage was found a day later, on the side of a mountain at about 4,400 meters. About 60 people have taken part in the search mission, most of them having walked kilometers to get there.

After this accident, the authorities tightened the rules, specifically that the plane was only allowed to fly if the weather forecast was favorable throughout the journey.

In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crashed near the notoriously inaccessible Kathmandu International Airport, killing 51 people. The crash was Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 aboard a Pakistan International Airlines flight died in a crash near Kathmandu.

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