At least 68 people died today in Nepal after a plane carrying about 72 people from capital Kathmandu crashed in Pokhara this morning, news agency AFP said, quoting the police. There were 68 passengers and four crew members on board the plane that crashed between the old and new airports in the city, located in western Nepal. The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft operated by Yeti Airlines was en route from Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.
15 foreign nationals, and six children, were on board. 53 Nepali, 5 Indian, 4 Russian, 2 Koreans, 1 Argentinian, and one each from Ireland, Australia, and France were in the plane, the airlines said in a statement.
“Thirty-one (bodies) have been taken to hospitals,” police official AK Chhetri told AFP, adding that 36 other bodies were found in the gorge where the aircraft crashed.
Rescue operations have been difficult because of a raging fire at the wreckage, Nepali journalist Dilip Thapa told NDTV. Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ called an emergency cabinet meeting soon after the crash, and the Nepal government has formed a five-member commission of inquiry to probe the incident.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the aircraft took off from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport at 10:33 am.
The plane was close to landing at the Pokhara airport, when it crashed into a river gorge on the bank of the Seti River. The crash happened around 20 minutes after the take-off, suggesting the aircraft might have been on the descent. The flight time between the two cities is 25 minutes.
“We don’t know right now if there are survivors,” the airline’s spokesperson Sudarshan Bartaula told news agency AFP.
The plane caught fire as it crashed, and rescue workers were trying to put it out, a local official was quoted as saying.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia condoled the loss of lives in the plane crash.
“The loss of lives in a tragic plane crash in Nepal is extremely unfortunate. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the bereaved. Om Shanti,” he tweeted.
Nepal’s airline business has been plagued with concerns around safety, and inadequate training of staff. The European Union has since 2013 put Nepal on the flight safety blacklist, ordering a blanket ban on all flights from the Himalayan country into its airspace, after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) flagged safety concerns.
Hundreds of people have earlier died in horrific plane crashes in Nepal, news agency AFP has reported.
In May 2022, all 22 people on board a plane operated by Nepali carrier Tara Air — 16 Nepalis, four Indians, and two Germans — died when it crashed.
In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crash-landed near Kathmandu’s international airport, killing 51 people.
That accident was Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.
Just two months earlier, a Thai Airways aircraft had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.