At least 68 people were killed Sunday when a plane crashed near the city of Pokhara in central Nepal, a government official said, in the country’s worst plane crash in more than 30 years.
Sudarshan Partola, a spokesman for Yeti Airlines, said 72 people – four crew members and 68 passengers – were on board the ATR-72 operated by Nepal Airlines when it crashed. The Nepal Civil Aviation Authority stated that 37 men, 25 women, three children and three infants.
Vanendra Mani Pokharel, joint secretary of Nepal’s Home Ministry, told CNN that first responders were still working to locate the last eight passengers, but had “given hope” of finding them alive. A local official had previously expressed hope that some survivors would be found.
The Nepal Civil Aviation Authority said at least one infant was among the dead.
Sunday’s accident was the third deadliest in the history of the Himalayan country, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network. The only accidents in which more people were killed occurred in July and September 1992. These accidents involved aircraft operated by Thai Airways and Pakistan International Airlines, and left 113 and 167 people dead, respectively.
The Civil Aviation Authority said 53 of the passengers and all four crew members were Nepalese. There were also fifteen foreigners on board: five Indians, four Russians and two Koreans. The remainder were individual citizens of Australia, Argentina, France and Ireland.
The country’s official newspaper, The Rising Nepal, reported that the plane was on its way from the capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, the country’s second most populous city. Pokahara is located 129 kilometers (80 miles) west of Kathmandu.
The last time the plane called Pokhara Airport was around 10:50 am local time, about 18 minutes after it took off. Then he descended into the nearby City River valley. Civil Aviation authorities said in a statement that first responders from Nepal Army and various police departments have been deployed to the crash site and are conducting a rescue operation.
Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said he was “extremely saddened by the unfortunate and tragic incident”.
“I sincerely appeal to the security personnel, all Nepali government agencies and the general public to start an effective rescue operation,” Dahal said on Twitter.
Nepal’s Yeti Airlines said it had canceled all regular flights on Monday, January 16, to mourn the victims of the crash.
Himalayan Nepal, which is home to eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest, has a record of air accidents. The weather can change suddenly and airstrips are usually located in mountainous areas that are difficult to access.
Last May, a Tara Air flight carrying 22 passengers It hit the Himalayas at about 14,500 feet. It was the 19th plane crash in the country in 10 years and the 10th fatal over the same period, according to Aviation Safety Network Database.
The plane involved in Sunday’s accident was an ATR 72-500, a twin-prop jet that is often used in the Asia-Pacific region, especially among low-cost airlines. Aircraft built by ATR, a joint partnership between European airlines Airbus and Leonardo, enjoy a good reputation.
However, they have been involved in accidents before. Two ATR 72s operated by the now-defunct Taiwanese airline TransAsia were involved in fatal accidents in July 2014 And February 2015. The second prompted Taiwanese authorities to temporarily ground all ATR 72s registered on the island.
In total, the various ATR 72 models were involved in 11 fatal accidents before Sunday’s accident in Nepal, According to the Aviation Safety Network.
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