Around 68 people died on Sunday when a domestic flight of Yeti Airlines crashed in Pokhara in Nepal, the worst plane crash in three decades in the small South Asian nation in the Himalayas.
Hundreds of rescue workers searched the low-lying hill station where the plane, Yeti Airlines Flight 691, with 72 people on board, smashed down. Officials carried out their search operation till late in the evening but called off for the day after that only to resume the operations from Monday.
Local media showed footage of rescue workers searching in and out of the dilapidated areas of the plane. Little areas of the ground around the crash site were charred with signs of flames noticeable.
Weather being clear at the time of the crash, it was difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the disaster.
According to the Aviation Safety Network database, Nepal has witnessed the most destructive plane crash since 1992, in which a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A300 crashed just before landing at the Tribhuvan International Airport in the capital Kathmandu, killing everyone, numbering 167, on the flight.
Nepal is one of the eight countries with the world’s 14 highest mountains, which also includes Everest, and has witnessed deaths of almost 350 people in some or the other air crashes since 2000. Here, weather has a tendency to change suddenly which can create lethal conditions.
Nepali airlines could no longer fly in the European Union airspace since 2013, due to safety reasons, as the latter has put a ban on them.
The European Union has banned Nepali airlines from its airspace since 2013, citing safety concerns.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority’s statement, the aircraft contacted authorities in Pokhara airport from Seti Gorge at 09:03 am MUT. It also stated that after making contact “then it crashed” and at least 68 people were confirmed dead. The authority also said that the aircraft included three infants and three children.
Passengers of foreign origin included five Indians, four Russians, one Irish, two South Koreans, one Australian, one French, and one Argentine national.
Arun Tamu, a local, while talking to the British news agency Reuters about the incident said that he visited the site just a few minutes after the plane crash. He said, “Half of the plane is on the hillside, the other half has fallen into the gorge of the Seti river.”
Another local resident Khum Bahadur Chhetri told Reuters that he saw the plane was trembling and going from left to right, it “then suddenly nosedived and it went into the gorge.”
The government has taken immediate action by organizing a panel to find out the cause behind the crash and is expected to report within 45 days, as told by Finance Minister Bishnu Paudel to reporters. Support came from France as its air accident investigation agency BEA pledged participation in the investigation and full coordination.
Yeti cancels all flights for Monday
A Pokhara Airport spokesman said the plane crashed at the time of approaching the airport, and that the “plane cruised at 12,500 feet and was on a normal descent.”
FlightRadar24, a flight tracking website posted on Twitter, saying that the Yeti Airlines plane was 15 years old and contained an old transponder with unreliable data. It also said that the last signal from the transponder was received at an altitude of 2,875 feet above mean sea level.
Meanwhile, Yeti announced cancellation of all its normal flights for Monday in “mourning for the passengers who lost their lives.”
The aircraft was equipped with ATR72, a used twin engine turboprop from the European planemaker ATR. The plane was widely used and is made by a joint venture of Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo. The website of Yeti Airlines states that it contains six ATR72-500 planes, one of them being the plane that crashed. In its statement it said, “ATR specialists are fully engaged to support both the investigation and the customer.”
It also describes itself as a forerunner in domestic carriers. Its website also says that it owns Tara Air, and the two jointly offer the “widest network” in Nepal.
One of the most well-travelled routes in Nepal is from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara, the country’s second-largest city, which is nestled beneath the magnificent Annapurna mountain range. Many visitors opt for the quick flight over the lengthy, hilly six-hour drive on this route.
According to FlightRadar24, Pokhara Airport is situated at a height of roughly 2,700 feet above mean sea level.