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At least 68 killed in Nepal’s worst air crash in 30 years

There was scorched ground close to the crash site.
Search teams investigate the slope where the plane crashed.
Yeti Airlines flight was carrying 72 people from capital.

The Yeti Airlines domestic flight that crashed in Pokhara, Nepal, on Sunday claimed the lives of at least 68 people, making it the deadliest air crash in the small Himalayan nation in 30 years.

Hundreds of rescue workers searched the hillside where the plane from Kathmandu, the capital, crashed, looking for survivors. Search efforts were suspended late in the day by officials, who said they would resume on Monday.

Rescue workers were seen scurrying around the plane’s shattered remains in earlier footage broadcast on local television. Some of the ground near the crash site was scorched, with licks of flames visible.

The weather had been clear and there was no immediate indication of what caused the crash.

According to the Aviation Safety Network database, when a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A300 crashed into a hillside while approaching Kathmandu, killing all 167 people on board, it was Nepal’s deadliest air crash since 1992.

Nearly 350 people have died since 2000 in plane or helicopter crashes in Nepal — home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest — where sudden weather changes can make for hazardous conditions.

Since 2013, Nepali airlines have been forbidden to fly within European Union airspace due to safety concerns.

According to a statement released by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority, the plane contacted Pokhara airport from Seti Gorge at 10:50 am (05:05 GMT) on Sunday. Then there was a crash. It stated that 68 deaths had been officially confirmed.

Local resident Arun Tamu told Reuters, “Half of the plane is on the hillside.” Tamu arrived at the scene mere minutes after the plane crashed. “The other half has fallen into the gorge of the Seti river.”

Another local, Khum Bahadur Chhetri, claimed to have seen the plane approaching from his roof.

The plane was “shaking and moving left and right,” Chhetri told Reuters, before it suddenly nosedived and crashed into the gorge.

The government has set up a panel to investigate the cause of the crash and it is expected to report within 45 days, the finance minister, Bishnu Paudel, told reporters.

The statement from the Civil Aviation Authority noted that there were three infants and three children on board the twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft.

Passengers included five Indians, four Russians and one Irish, two South Korean, one Australian, one French and one Argentine national.

Yeti cancels flights
Pokhara, Nepal’s second largest city, is nestled under the picturesque Annapurna mountain range, making the journey from Kathmandu, the country’s capital, to Pokhara one of the most popular tourist routes in the Himalayan country, though many visitors opt to fly instead of drive the six hours through winding mountain roads.

A Pokhara Airport spokesman said the aircraft crashed as it approached the airport, adding that the “plane cruised at 12,500 feet and was on a normal descent.” The weather on Sunday was clear.

Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 said on Twitter the Yeti Airlines aircraft was 15 years old and equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data. It was also mentioned that the last signal from the transponder was received at 05:12 GMT, 2,875 feet above mean sea level.

According to FlightRadar24, Pokhara Airport is about 2,700 feet to 2,800 feet above mean sea level.

On its website, Yeti describes itself as a leading domestic carrier. Its fleet consists of six ATR 72-500s, including the one that crashed. In addition, it claims to own Tara Air, which together they use to provide the “widest network” in Nepal.

In “mourning for the passengers who lost their lives,” Yeti announced that all of its regular flights for Monday would be cancelled.

Airbus and Leonardo of Italy formed a joint venture to produce the ATR72, a widely flown twin-engine turboprop plane made in Europe. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 planes, according to its website.

“ATR specialists are fully engaged to support both the investigation and the customer,” ATR said in a statement.

Unfortunately, neither Airbus nor Leonardo responded quickly to our requests for comment.