Day of mourning in Nepal after plane crash kills at least 68

A 72-seat passenger aircraft crashed into a gorge while landing at a newly opened airport in the resort town of Pokhara.

Day of mourning in Nepal after plane crash kills at least 68 PA Media

A national day of mourning is under way in Nepal after at least 68 people died in a plane crash.

Rescue workers rappelled down the 984ft Seti Gorge in Pokhara to continue the search after the plane crashed while attempting to land at a newly-opened airport.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder have been retrieved from the site.

The death toll rose to 68 after two more bodies were found on Monday morning. A total of 72 people were on board the Yeti Airlines flight from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara.

It remains unclear what caused the crash, the Himalayan country’s deadliest air accident in three decades.

A witness who recorded footage of the plane’s descent from his balcony said he saw the plane flying low before it suddenly veered to its left.

“I saw that and I was shocked,” said Diwas Bohora.

After it crashed, red flames erupted and the ground shook violently, like an earthquake, Mr Bohora said. “Seeing that scene, I was scared,” he added.

Another witness, Gaurav Gurung, said he saw the aircraft spinning violently in the air after it began descending to land, as he watched from the terrace of his house. Finally, he said, the plane fell nose-first towards its left and crashed into the gorge.

Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said the aircraft last made contact with the airport from near Seti Gorge at 10.50am (5.05am GMT) on Sunday before crashing.

The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, was competing the 27-minute flight from the capital, to Pokhara, 125 miles west.

It was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.

The bodies are being kept in the Pokhara Academy of Health and Science, Western Hospital.

Gyan Khakda, a police spokesperson in the district, said 31 bodies have been identified and will be handed over to family after officials finish post-mortem reports.

The bodies of foreigners and those who have not yet been identified will be sent to Kathmandu for further investigation.

On Sunday, Twitter was awash with images that showed plumes of smoke billowing from the crash site, about a mile away from Pokhara International Airport. The aircraft’s fuselage was split into multiple parts that were scattered down the gorge.

Hours after dark, scores of onlookers remained crowded around the crash site near the airport in the resort town of Pokhara as rescue workers combed the wreckage on the edge of the cliff and in the ravine below.

At Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, family members appeared distraught as they waited for information.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal rushed to the airport after the crash and set up a panel to investigate the accident.

“The incident was tragic. The full force of the Nepali army, police has been deployed for rescue,” he said.

Sunday’s crash is Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it ploughed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.

The European Union has banned airlines from Nepal from flying into the 27-nation bloc since 2013, citing weak safety standards.

In 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organisation cited improvements in Nepal’s aviation sector, but the EU continues to demand administrative reforms.

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