Hopes of survivors of plane crash in Nepal ‘none’

Nepalese rescue workers searched a wreckage-strewn valley on Monday for four missing bodies from the wreckage of a plane that crashed with 72 people on board, hoping any survivors are now “none,” according to authorities.

A Yeti Airlines ATR 72 plunged into the steep gorge, shattered into pieces and caught fire as it approached the central city of Pokhara Sunday morning, in Nepal’s worst aviation disaster since 1992.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, but a video on social media – check with AFP partner ESN – showed the twin-prop aircraft moving abruptly and sharply to the left as it approached Pokhara airport. A powerful explosion followed.

Nepal, which has a poor air safety record, celebrated a day of mourning on Monday for the victims.

Soldiers used ropes and stretchers to pull bodies out of the 300-meter (1,000-foot)-deep valley late at night, with recovery efforts resuming on Monday.

Also Read: Search paused in Nepal for missing plane with 22 passengers on board

We have collected 68 bodies so far. We are looking for four more corpses. “We must continue until we get the bodies,” senior local official Tek Bahadur K.C. told AFP.

“Pray for a miracle. But hoping to find anyone is nothing.”

The crash site was littered with debris, including the mangled remains of the passenger seats and the white fuselage.

Rescue workers inspect debris at the crash site of a Yeti Airlines plane in Pokhara, January 16, 2023 (Photo by Prakash Mathema/AFP)

– ‘hurt’ –

The uncle of one of the 68 passengers, Sangeeta Shahi, 23, Raj Dongana, told AFP outside a hospital in Pokhara that his entire family was “in pain”.

He described a “very talented” young woman who was a student in Kathmandu, who also ran a make-up studio and worked on an online business platform on the side.

He said, “God took such a nice person.”

The passenger manifest included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one person each from Argentina, Australia, France and Ireland. The rest were Nepalese.

“Incredibly sad news,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wrote on Twitter. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed his condolences.

The ATR 72 was on a flight from the capital, Kathmandu, and hit the ground between the brand new Pokhara International Airport and the old domestic airport just before 11:00 am (0515 GMT) on Sunday.

“I was walking when I heard a loud explosion, like a bomb going off,” said witness Aaron Tamu, 44, who was about 500 meters away and broadcast live video of the burning wreckage on social media.

Also read: Nepal has tightened its aviation rules after the plane crash that killed 22 people

A few of us rushed to see if we could save anyone. I saw at least two women breathing. “The fire was very intense and made it difficult for us to get close,” the former soldier told AFP.

It was not clear if anyone on the ground was injured.

Aviation expert Greg Waldon told AFP that from video circulating on social media, it appears the plane may have had a “side spoiler”, meaning one of the wings suddenly stopped providing lift.

“When you’re at a lower altitude and you have an event like that… it’s a big deal,” Waldon, managing editor for Asia at industry firm FlightGlobal, told AFP.

“The specialists are fully engaged to support both the investigation and the customer,” the French-based manufacturer ATR said in a statement on Sunday.

Nepalese aviation industry

Nepal’s aviation industry has boomed in recent years, moving cargo and people between hard-to-reach areas, as well as transporting foreign mountaineers.

Yeti Airlines, Nepal’s second largest airline, was founded in 1998 by businessman Ang Tshering Sherpa, who died in a helicopter crash in 2019.

Also Read: All 22 bodies recovered from plane crash in Nepal

The aviation sector suffers from poor safety due to inadequate training and maintenance. The European Union has banned all Nepali airlines from its airspace due to safety concerns.

Nepal also has some of the most remote and difficult runways in the world, surrounded by snow-capped peaks with difficult approaches and fickle weather.

The country’s deadliest aviation accident occurred in 1992, when 167 people died on a Pakistan International Airlines plane when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.

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