Rescuers have resumed the search for four people still missing after Nepal’s deadliest plane crash in 30 years, officials said.
The ATR 72, operated by Yeti Airlines, was carrying 72 people when it crashed in the tourist city of Pokhara a few minutes before landing on a clear day on Sunday.
Rescuers have so far recovered 68 bodies.
Nepal declared Monday a day of mourning and set up a commission to investigate the disaster and come up with measures to avoid such incidents in the future.
It is not immediately known what caused the crash.
The plane, on a scheduled flight from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, the gateway to the scenic Annapurna mountain range, was carrying 57 Nepalese, five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans and one person each from Argentina, Ireland, Australia and France. .
Pokhara Police Chief Ajay KC said the search and rescue operation, which had come to a halt due to nightfall on Sunday, had now resumed.
He said, “We are going to pull the five bodies out of the gorge and search for the other four who are still missing.”
The other 63 bodies had been sent to hospital, he said.
Rescuers also searched the black boxes – a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder – as they searched for survivors, a spokesman for Nepal’s civil aviation authority said.
Authorities said the bodies would be returned to families after identification and examination.
Images and videos shared on Twitter showed plumes of smoke billowing from the crash site as rescue workers, soldiers and crowds of people gathered around the wreckage of the plane to find survivors.
The plane’s fuselage was split into several parts scattered across the throat.
Tek Bahadur KC, a senior administrative official in Kaski district, said he expected rescuers to find more bodies at the back of the gorge.
Local resident Bishnu Tiwari, who rushed to the crash site to help with the search, said rescue efforts had been hampered by thick smoke and a raging fire that engulfed the plane.
“The flames were so hot we couldn’t get near the wreckage,” he said.
Gaurav Gurung, a witness, said he saw the plane spinning violently in the air after it began to attempt a landing.
He added that he saw the plane drop nose first to his left and then crash into the gorge.
“The plane caught fire after the crash. There was smoke everywhere,” Mr Gurung said.
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At the crash site near the Seti River, nearly a mile from Pokhara International Airport, rescuers sprayed fire hoses and heaved ropes to another smoldering part of the wreckage below.
The aviation authority said the plane last made contact with the airport from Seti Gorge at 10:50 a.m. local time.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who rushed to the airport after the crash, has set up a commission to investigate the accident.
“The incident was tragic. Full force of Nepal Army, Police were deployed for the rescue,” he said.
The type of aircraft in question was used by several airlines around the world for short regional flights.
Introduced in the late 1980s by a Franco-Italian partnership, the model has been involved in several fatal crashes over the years.
In 2018, an ATR 72 operated by Iranian company Aseman Airlines crashed in a mountainous and foggy region, killing all 65 people on board.
ATR identified the aircraft involved in Sunday’s crash as an ATR 72-500 in a tweet.
According to aircraft tracking data from flightradar24.com, the aircraft was 15 years old and “fitted with an old transponder with unreliable data”.
It was previously flown by Kingfisher Airlines in India and Nok Air in Thailand before Yeti took it over in 2019, according to Airfleets.net records.
Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 aircraft, company spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said.
Sunday’s crash was the deadliest in Nepal since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it slammed into a hill while trying to land in Kathmandu.
Nearly 350 people have died since 2000 in plane or helicopter crashes in Nepal – home to eight of the world’s 14 countries
the highest mountains, including Everest – where sudden weather changes can create dangerous conditions.