Nepal has suffered its worst plane crash in 30 years, with at least 68 fatalities.
According to the Himalyan nation’s Civil Aviation Authority, the crash occured on Sunday morning local time, soon after the Yeti Airlines plane had made contact with Pokhara airport from Seti Gorge on one of the country’s most popular and spectacular tourists routes along the Annapurna mountain range.
Moments of Nepal air crash— Neha Mehta (@IamNehaMehta) January 15, 2023
Plane with 72 people onboard crashes at the runway of Nepal’s Pokhara International Airport, rescue operation under way. #BreakingNews #Nepal #pokhra #NepalPlaneCrash pic.twitter.com/C2gPPvAjEJ
Conditions had been good and no reason for the crash was immediately given. A Pokhara Airport spokesperson said that the aircraft had been cruising at 3800 metres “on a normal descent.”
The moments before the crash were described by a local, Khum Bahadur Chhetri, who told Reuters he saw the flight coming in from the roof of his house.
I saw the plane trembling, moving left and right, and then suddenly it nosedived and it went into the gorge.Khum Bahadur Chhetri
The plane from Kathmandu had been carrying 72 passengers, 6 of them children. Five Indians, four Russians and one Irish national were thought to be on the flight, as well as two South Korean, one Australian, one French and one Argentinian.
Search and rescue operations were called off late in the evening to be resumed on Monday. In TV footage of the area, broken sections of the aircraft could be seen among scorch marks and flames.
Arun Tamu, a local resident who reached the crash site in 6 minutes, told Reuters, “Half of the plane is on the hillside, the other half has fallen into the gorge of the Seti river.”
All Yeti Airlines’ regular flights for Monday have been cancelled in “mourning for the passengers who lost their lives.”
Almost 350 people have died in air crashes in Nepal since 2000. The country’s mountainous scenery boasts Everest, alongside half of the world’s 14 highest peaks, but this can cause abrupt and dangerous changes in flying conditions. In addition, Nepali airlines have a questionable safety record and have been banned for the last decade from EU airspace.
Flight #YT691took off at 04.47 UTC time.— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) January 15, 2023
At 05:05 UTC time the transponder stopped transmitting position data.
Last signal from the transponder was received at 05:12 UTC time at the altitude of 2875 feet AMSL. Pokhara Airport is located at about 2700-2800 feet AMSL.
The Yeti Airlines plane was 15 years old according to FlightRadar 24, a flight tracker on Twitter. Yeti also owns Tara Air, and styles itself as a leading domestic carrier with Nepal’s widest network. Its fleet consists of five other twin engine turboprop ATR 72-500s like the one that crashed.
The ATR72 is made by ATR, a joint Airbus and Leonardo venture. “ATR specialists are fully engaged to support both the investigation and the customer,” the company said in a statement.
A panel set up by the government to investigate the crash is expected to report within 45 days, the finance minister, Bishnu Paudel, told reporters.