A Nepali passenger plane with 72 people onboard, including five Indians, crashed during landing in Pokhara. Sixty-eight bodies have been recovered so far.
The plane crashed into a river gorge while landing at the airport in Pokhara, a popular tourist destination in Nepal. It was operated by Yeti Airlines.
Yeti Airlines' 9N-ANC ATR-72 aircraft took off from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 10:33 am, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN). While landing at the Pokhara airport around 11 am, the aircraft crashed on the bank of the Seti River between the old airport and the new airport.
At least 68 bodies have been recovered from the wreckage site, reported PTI.
Five Indians were among the total 10 foreign nationals onboard the plane, the Indian Embassy tweeted.
The embassy also released helpline numbers: I) Kathmandu: Shri Diwakar Sharma:+977-9851107021, II) Pokhara: Lt Col Shashank Tripathi: +977-9856037699.
The five Indians onboard the crashed plane have been identified as Abhisekh Kushwaha, Bishal Sharma, Anil Kumar Rajbhar, Sonu Jaiswal and Sanjaya Jaiswal, a Yeti Airlines official said.
The plane crashed into the Seti river gorge, according to Tek Bahadur KC, Chief District Officer of the Kaski district, Rescue operations are currently being conducted, he was quoted as saying by The Himalayan Times newspaper.
Nepal government orders probe
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" held an emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers following the crash. The emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers held on Sunday afternoon has decided to announce a public holiday on January 16 to mourn the victims of the Yeti Airlines plane crash.
Prachanda expressed sadness over the crash and directed the Home Ministry, security personnel and all the government agencies to carry out immediate rescue and relief operations.
The government announced that a five-member committee will be formed to probed the accident.
Following the Yeti Airlines aircraft crash, the Pokhara International Airport has been closed for today for all incoming and outgoing flights.
Images and videos posted on social media platforms showed plumes of smoke billowing from the crash site.
Difficulties in rescue work
Shortly after the crash, police reached and started a rescue operation. However, the police said that it was not possible to deploy enough manpower. Police said that bringing the fire under control was difficult as the fire engine could not reach the gorge where the crash took place. As a result, the fire is yet to be brought under control.
Gyan Bahadur Khadka, police spokesman, Kaski, said that there was a problem in the rescue due to the difficult terrain.
He said, "We are trying to rescue as quickly as possible. But there is a problem due to geographical difficulties.”
After the aircraft crashed in the center of Pokhara, a crowd gathered around the accident site.
Spokesman Khadka said that this has hampered the rescue process.
He said, "There is a crowd of thousands. Due to the crowd, there has been a problem in the rescue as even the ambulance and fire brigade has been hindered.”
Long line of air accidents in Nepal
Nepal has had a fraught record of aviation accidents, partly due to its sudden weather changes and airstrips located in hard-to-access rocky terrains.
The last major air accident in Nepal happened on May 29 when all 22 people onboard, including four members of an Indian family, were killed as a Tara Air plane crashed in Nepal's mountainous Mustang district.
In 2016, all 23 people aboard were killed when a plane of the same airline flying the same route crashed after takeoff.
In March 2018, a US-Bangla Air crash occurred at the Tribhuvan International Airport, killing 51 people on board.
A Sita Air flight crashed in September 2012 while making an emergency landing at the Tribhuvan International Airport, killing 19 people.
A plane flying from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed near Jomsom airport on May 14, 2012, killing 15 people.
(With PTI inputs)