At least 67 people died Sunday in the crash in central Nepal of a Yeti Airlines plane carrying 72 people, police said.
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“31 (bodies) have been taken to hospitals,” police officer AK Chhetri told AFP, adding that 36 other remains were found in the ravine where the plane crashed.
The plane from the Nepalese capital Kathmandu crashed on Sunday morning near the local airport in Pokhara, central Nepal, where it was due to land.
This city is a gateway for religious pilgrims and trekkers from all over the world.
The carcass of the burning aircraft was in a deep ravine between this airport, created in 1958, and the new international terminal in Pokhara, which opened on January 1.
The plane had 68 passengers and four crew members on board, company spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula told AFP.
Among them are 15 foreign nationals, including a Frenchman, he said.
The company added that five citizens of India were also among the passengers along with four Russians, two Koreans, an Australian, an Argentinian and an Irishman.
The cabin is on fire and rescuers are “focused first on extinguishing the fire and rescuing passengers,” local official Gurudutta Dhakal said.
At the scene of the accident, rescuers were spraying the pieces of the twin-engine ATR 72 on fire with hoses. Around lay debris from the aircraft, including seats.
A video shared on social networks showed dozens of people massed around a huge blaze, releasing a thick cloud of black and opaque smoke, at the bottom of a deep ravine, whose vegetation was already reduced to ashes.
In another video, which AFP could not verify, a plane flies low over a residential area, banking sharply to the left, before a loud explosion.
Nepal’s airline industry has boomed in recent years, ferrying goods and people to hard-to-reach areas, as well as trekkers and foreign mountain climbers.
But it suffered from a lack of safety due to insufficient pilot training and maintenance.
The European Union has banned all Nepalese carriers from accessing its airspace for security reasons.
The Himalayan country also has some of the most isolated and tricky tracks in the world, flanked by snow-capped peaks that challenge even seasoned pilots to approach.
Aircraft operators say Nepal lacks the infrastructure to make accurate weather forecasts, especially in remote areas with rugged mountainous terrain, where fatal accidents have occurred in the past.
The weather also changes rapidly in the mountains, creating even more challenging flying conditions.
In May 2022, all 22 people on board a twin-engine Twin Otter operated by Nepalese company Tara Air – 16 Nepalese, four Indians and two Germans – died when the aircraft crashed.
Air traffic control had lost contact with the twin-propeller aircraft shortly after it took off from Pokhara heading for Jomsom, a popular trekking destination.
Its wreckage was found a day later, on the side of a mountain at an altitude of about 4,400 meters.
Around 60 people had taken part in the search mission, most of them having walked for miles to get there.
After this crash, the authorities tightened the regulations, in particular so that the planes are only allowed to fly if the weather forecast is favorable throughout the journey.
In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crashed near the notoriously difficult to access Kathmandu International Airport, killing 51 people.
The crash was the deadliest in Nepal since 1992, when all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines plane died in a crash near Kathmandu.
Two months earlier, a Thai Airways plane crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.