Authorities in Nepal said 68 people have been confirmed dead after a regional passenger plane with 72 aboard crashed into a gorge while landing at a newly opened airport in the resort town of Pokhara. It was the country's deadliest airplane accident in three decades.

Tek Bahadur K. C., a senior administrative officer in the Kaski district, made the announcement Sunday while rescuers were scouring the crash site near the Seti River, about 1.6 kilometres from Pokhara International Airport.

At the crash site, rescuers used ropes to pull out bodies from the wreckage. Some bodies, burned beyond recognition, were carried by firefighters to hospitals, where grief-stricken relatives had assembled.

Bahadur said he expected rescue workers to find more victims at the bottom of the gorge.

It was not immediately clear what caused the plane to crash.

The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Nepal's Yeti Airlines, was flying from the capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, a 27-minute flight. It was carrying 68 passengers including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members, Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.

The aviation authority said the aircraft last made contact with the airport from near Seti Gorge at 10:50 a.m. before crashing.

Fuselage split into several parts

Images and videos shared on Twitter showed plumes of smoke billowing from the crash site as rescue workers, Nepali soldiers, and crowds of people gathered around the wreckage of the aircraft to find survivors. The aircraft's fuselage was split into multiple parts that were scattered down the gorge.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who rushed to the airport after the crash, set up a panel to investigate the accident.

Locals watch the wreckage of a passenger plane in Pokhara, Nepal, on Sunday. A passenger plane with 72 people on board crashed near Pokhara International Airport, killing at least 32. (Yunish Gurung/The Associated Press)

"The incident was tragic. The full force of the Nepali army, police has been deployed for rescue," he said.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it's still trying to confirm the fate of two South Korean passengers and has sent staff to the scene.

The type of plane involved, the ATR 72, has been used by several airlines around the world for short regional flights. Introduced in the late 1980s by a French and Italian partnership, the aircraft model has been involved in several deadly accidents over the years. In 2018, an ATR 72 operated by Iran's Aseman Airlines crashed in a foggy, mountainous region, killing all 65 aboard.

ATR identified the plane involved in Sunday's crash as an ATR 72-500 in a tweet. According to plane tracking data from flightradar24.com, the aircraft was 15 years old and "equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data." It was previously flown by India's Kingfisher Airlines and Thailand's Nok Air before Yeti took it over in 2019, according to records on Airfleets.net. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 planes, company spokesperson Sudarshan Bartaula said.

Rescuers inspect the site of the crash. (Yunish Gurung/AFP/Getty Images)

Pokhara, located 200 kilometres west of Kathmandu, is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular hiking trail in the Himalayas.

Pokhara International Airport began operations only two weeks ago. It was built with Chinese construction and financial support. The Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Chen Song, said in a tweet he was "very shocked" to learn of the accident.

"At this difficult time, our thoughts are with Nepali people. I would like to express my deep condolences to the victims, and sincere sympathies to the bereaved families," he wrote.

Relatives of passengers on the crashed plane arrive at Kathmandhu airport in Nepal on Sunday. (Bikram Rai/The Associated Press)

Sunday's crash is Nepal's deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it plowed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.

Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, has a history of air crashes. According to the Flight Safety Foundation's Aviation Safety database, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.

Last year, 22 people died when a plane crashed on a mountainside in Nepal. In 2016, a Tara Air Twin Otter flying from Pokhara to Kathmandu crashed after takeoff, killing all 23 people aboard.

In 2012, an Agni Air plane flying from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed, killing 15 people. Six people survived. In 2014, a Nepal Airlines plane flying from Pokhara to Jumla crashed, killing all 18 on board.

In 1992, all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it plowed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.

 

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A 72-seat Nepali passenger aircraft crashed into a gorge while landing at a newly opened airport in the central resort town of Pokhara on Sunday, killing at least 32 people, an official said.

Rescuers were scouring the crash site near the Seti River, which is nearly 1.6 kilometres away from Pokhara International Airport, and were expecting to find more bodies, said Tek Bahadur K.C., a senior administrative officer in the Kaski district.

It was not immediately clear what caused the plane to crash.

The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft operated by Nepal's Yeti Airlines was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, and four crew members, Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.

Gateway to popular hiking trail

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who rushed to the airport after the crash, said the plane was flying from the capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara. He urged security personnel and the general public to help with the rescue efforts.

Images and videos shared on Twitter showed plumes of smoke billowing from the crash site as rescue workers, Nepali soldiers, and crowds of people gathered around the wreckage of the aircraft.

Pokhara, located 200 kilometres west of Kathmandu, is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular hiking trail in the Himalayas. Pokhara International Airport began operations only two weeks ago.

Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, has a history of air crashes.

Last year, 22 people died when a plane crashed on a mountainside in Nepal. In 2018, a US-Bangla passenger plane from Bangladesh crashed on landing in Kathmandu, killing 49 of the 71 people aboard.

In 1992, all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it plowed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.

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via: CBC.

Over the last 30 years, there have been 27 fatal plane crashes in Nepal. Of them, more than 20 tragic aviation incidents have occurred in the recent decade. Nepal has a long history of plane catastrophes, ranging from the US-Bangla plane tragedy to local flight crashes such as the recent Tara Air crash.

Over the last 30 years, there have been 27 fatal plane crashes in Nepal. Of them, more than 20 tragic aviation incidents have occurred in the recent decade. Nepal has a long history of plane catastrophes, ranging from the US-Bangla plane tragedy to local flight crashes such as the recent Tara Air crash.Aug 6, 2022

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