Kathmandu: At least 68 people were killed on Sunday when a domestic flight crashed in Pokhara in Nepal, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority said. It is the worst air crash in three decades in the small Himalayan nation.
Hundreds of rescue workers were scouring the hillside where the Yeti Airlines flight, carrying 72 people including four crew members from the capital city of Kathmandu, went down.
Local TV showed rescue workers scrambling around broken sections of the aircraft. Some of the ground near the crash site was scorched, with licks of flames visible.
Five Indians among 15 foreigners killed
There were five Indians among 15 foreign passengers onboard the Yeti Airlines flight. According to initial reports, the plane crashed when it was attempting to land at the Pokhara International Airport amid bad weather conditions. Reports further say that the plane caught fire as it crashed on the runway. Images and videos posted on social media showed plumes of smoke coming out from the crash site.
Pokhara airport opened on January 1
The Pokhara International Airport was inaugurated two weeks ago by Nepal’s newly-appointed Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and built with Chinese assistance. Built in the backdrop of the pristine Annapurna Mountain Range, the airport was officially inaugurated on January 1, 2023.
The flagship project was part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation. The Nepal government signed a $215.96 million soft loan agreement with China in March 2016 for the construction of the airport in this tourist hub, according to Kathmandu Post newspaper.
Last year, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi handed over the Pokhara Regional International Airport to the then Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, during a courtesy call held at Baluwatar.
Scindia saddened over crash
Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Sunday condoled the loss of lives in a plane crash in Nepal and said it was “extremely unfortunate”. A Nepalese passenger plane with 72 people onboard, including five Indians, crashed into a river gorge while landing at the Pokhara airport on Sunday, killing at least 32 people. “The loss of lives in a tragic plane crash in Nepal is extremely unfortunate. My thoughts & prayers are with the families of the bereaved. Om Shanti,” Scindia said in a tweet.
Plane crashed near Seti river
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), Yeti Airlines’ 9N-ANC ATR-72 aircraft took off from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport at 10:33 am. Pokhara is a major tourist destination in the Himalayan nation. 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. There were a total of 68 passengers and four crew members.
The ATR72 is a widely used twin engine turboprop plane manufactured by a joint venture of Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 planes, according to its website. Yeti describes itself on its website as a leading domestic carrier of Nepal.