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At Least 68 Killed in Nepal’s Worst Airplane Crash in 30 Years
A government official said Sunday that at least 68 people were killed when an airplane crashed near the city of Pokhara in central Nepal, the country’s deadliest plane crash in more than 30 years. Seventy-two people were on board the ATR 72 plane operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines when it crashed, according to Yeti Airlines spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula. According to Nepal’s civil aviation authorities, 37 were males, 25 were women, three were children, and three were newborns.
The search was called off after dusk, according to Army spokesman Krishna Prasad Bhandari, and will continue Monday morning. Before that, hundreds of first responders were still looking for the last four people, according to Bhandari.
According to data from the Aviation Safety Network, Sunday’s tragedy was the third-deadliest in the Himalayan nation’s history. The only times more people were killed were in July and September of 1992. Thai Airways and Pakistan International airlines were involved in the crashes, which killed 113 and 167 persons, respectively.
According to the civil aviation authorities, all four crew members and 53 of the passengers were Nepalis. There were also fifteen foreign nationals on the plane: five Indians, four Russians, and two Koreans. The remainder were individuals from Australia, Argentina, France, and Ireland.
According to the country’s state media Rising Nepal, the plane was flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara, the country’s second-most populous city and a gateway to the Himalayas. Pokhara is 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of Kathmandu.
The plane last communicated with Pokhara airport at about 10:50 a.m. local time, just 18 minutes after takeoff. It then crashed into the neighboring Seti River Gorge. The Nepal Army and several police departments have been deployed to the crash site and are conducting a rescue operation, according to civil aviation authorities.
On Sunday, a video clip on social media purported to show the minutes before the plane crashed. The video, which appears to have been shot from the rooftop of a house in Pokhara, shows the plane flying low over a populous area and rolling on its side before disappearing from view. At the end of the video, there is a loud explosion.
CNN cannot independently confirm the clip’s validity. A five-person committee has also been constituted to investigate the crash’s cause. According to Nepal’s deputy prime minister and government spokesperson Bishnu Paudel, the quintet must provide a report to the government within 45 days.
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Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal expressed “deep sadness” at the “sad and tragic event.” “I sincerely implore security personnel, all Nepal government departments, and the general population to begin an effective rescue,” Dahal stated on Twitter.
A spokeswoman for the prime minister said the government designated Monday a public holiday to mourn the victims. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Australia’s envoy to Nepal also expressed their sympathies. Yeti Airlines of Nepal said that all regular flights would be canceled on Monday, January 16, to honor the victims of the disaster.
Why Is Flying In Nepal So Dangerous?
Nepal, which is home to eight of the world’s fourteen tallest mountains, including Everest, has a history of air accidents. Its weather can be unpredictable, and airstrips are often located in remote mountainous areas. A Tara Air flight carrying 22 people crashed into a Himalayan mountain last May at a height of approximately 14,500 feet. According to the Aviation Safety Network database, this was the country’s 19th plane disaster in ten years, and its 10th deadly one.
The plane that crashed on Sunday was an ATR 72-500, a twin-prop turbojet that is popular in the Asia-Pacific area, particularly among low-cost carriers. Planes manufactured by ATR, a joint venture between European aeronautics giants Airbus and Leonardo, have a high reputation.
They have, however, been engaged in previous accidents. In July 2014 and February 2015, two ATR 72s operated by the now-defunct Taiwanese carrier Transasia were involved in fatal disasters. The second caused Taiwanese officials to ground all ATR 72s registered on the island for the time being.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, the ATR 72’s various versions had been involved in 11 fatal incidents before to Sunday’s tragedy in Nepal. The accident was reported to ATR on Sunday, according to a statement.