KATHMANDU: At least 44 people have been killed after an aircraft carrying 72 people crashed in Nepal.
There were 72 people on the twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, including four crew members, said airline spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula.
Nepal Police Spokesperson, Tek Prasad Rai, told Al Jazeera that the death toll has gone up to 44, adding that no survivors have been found so far.
Jagannath Niroula, spokesman for Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, confirmed the figure.
“Thirty bodies have been recovered and sent to hospital,” Niroula told Reuters news agency. “Another 14 bodies are still lying at the crash site and authorities are bringing in a crane to move them.”
Local television showed thick black smoke billowing from the crash site as rescue workers and crowds of people gathered around the wreckage of the aircraft.
The craft made contact with the airport from Seti Gorge at 10:50am (05:05 GMT), the aviation authority said in a statement. “Then it crashed.”
“Half of the plane is on the hillside,” said Arun Tamu, a local resident, who told Reuters he reached the site minutes after the plane went down.
“The other half has fallen into the gorge of the Seti River.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Kathmandu, Ramyata Limbu said locals in Pokhara asserted weather and visibility was “good” when the plane crashed.
“So its [the crash] shocking and surprising,” said Limbu. “Eyewitnesses said the plane was having problems before it crashed into a gorge close to the airport.”
Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has called an emergency cabinet meeting after the plane crash, a government statement said.
“I sincerely appeal to the security personnel, all agencies of the Nepal government and the general public to start an effective rescue.”
A committee to investigate the crash has been formed by the government.
The crash is Nepal’s deadliest since March 2018, when a US-Bangla Dash 8 turboprop flight from Dhaka crashed on landing in Kathmandu, killing 51 of the 71 people on board, according to Aviation Safety Network.
In May, a plane owned by Tara Air crashed less than 20 minutes after taking off from Pokhara.
At least 309 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 the weather can change suddenly and make for hazardous conditions. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)