At least 40 people have died in Nepal’s worst plane crash in five years

KATHMANDU, Jan 15 (Reuters) – At least 40 people were killed on Sunday when a domestic plane crashed in Nepal’s Pokhara, a civil aviation authority official said.

Hundreds of rescue workers were searching the hillside where the Eti Airlines flight carrying 72 people from the capital Kathmandu went down. The weather was clear, said Jagannath Nirola, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.

Local television showed rescue workers scrambling around the wreckage of the plane. Some land near the crash site was burnt and flames were visible.

“The plane is on fire,” said police officer Ajay KC, as rescue workers struggled to reach the spot in a valley between two hills near the tourist town’s airport.

The plane made contact with the airport from Seti Gorge at 10:50 am (0505 GMT), the civil aviation authority said in a statement. “And then it crashed.”

“Half of the plane is on the hillside,” said local resident Arun Thamu, who told Reuters he reached the spot only minutes after the plane went down.

It was Nepal’s worst accident since March 2018, when a US-Bangla Dash 8 turboprop plane from Dhaka crashed on landing in Kathmandu, killing 51 of the 71 people on board, the Aviation Safety Network said.

At least 309 people have died since 2000 in plane or helicopter crashes in Nepal – eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest – as the weather changes suddenly and creates dangerous conditions. The European Union has banned Nepali flights from its airspace since 2013 due to security concerns.

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Two infants and four crew members were among those on board the twin-engine ATR 72, airline spokesman Sudarshan Bardaula said. On board were five Indians, four Russians, one Irish, two South Koreans, one Australian, one French and one Argentine.

According to FlightRadar24, a flight tracking website, the plane is 15 years old.

The ATR72 is a widely used twin-engine turboprop aircraft produced by a joint venture between Airbus and Leonardo of Italy. Eti Airlines has six ATR72-500 aircraft, according to its website.

Flight Radar 24 reported that the aircraft was equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data. “We are downloading high-resolution data and checking data quality,” it said on Twitter.

Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has called an emergency cabinet meeting after the plane crash.

Report by Gopal Sharma; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed; Written by Devajyot Ghoshal; Editing: William Mallard

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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