By Shirish B Pradhan
AT LEAST 68 people were killed when a Nepalese passenger plane with 72 people onboard, including five Indians, crashed into a river gorge while landing at the newly-opened airport in central Nepal’s resort city of Pokhara on Sunday in the Himalayan nation’s deadliest aviation accident in over 30 years. Yeti Airlines’ 9N-ANC ATR-72 aircraft took off from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport at 10:33 am and crashed on the bank of the Seti River between the old airport and the new airport minutes before landing, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN). A total of 68 passengers and four crew members were on board the aircraft. The flight time between Kathmandu and Pokhara is 25 minutes.
“So far, dead bodies of 68 people have been recovered from the crash site,” an official at the Search and Rescue Coordination Committee of the CAAN told PTI over the phone. Bodies of those who died have been retrieved and taken to Gandaki Hospital for post-mortem, an official from the district administration office, Kaski, said. Most of the bodies were damaged so much so that they are beyond identification, the official added. Efforts to recover four more people will resume on Monday, the spokesman of the Nepal Army said. The 15 foreign nationals onboard the plane included five Indians, four Russians, two Koreans, an Australian, a French, an Argentine and an Israeli.
The five Indians hailed from Ghazipur district in Uttar Pradesh, were identified as Abhisekh Kushwaha, 25, Bishal Sharma, 22, Anil Kumar Rajbhar, 27, Sonu Jaiswal, 35, and Sanjaya Jaiswal. Of the five Indians, four were planning to participate in paragliding activities in the tourist hub of Pokhara, a local resident who travelled with them to Nepal, said. Among the five Indian nationals, four had just arrived in Kathmandu from India on Friday.
“All the four were planning to enjoy paragliding in the lake city and tourist hub Pokhara,” recalled Ajay Kumar Shah, a resident of Sarlahi district in southern Nepal. “We came together from India in the same vehicle,” he added.
“They stayed in Gaushala near Pashupatinath Temple and then in Hotel Discovery of Thamel, before departing to Pokhara,” he said.
They were planning to return to India from Pokhara via Gorakhpur, he added. Sonu, the eldest among the Indian nationals, was a resident of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The Indian embassy is in touch with local authorities and is monitoring the situation, the mission said while expressing its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. “Deeply grieved on hearing about the air crash in Pokhara, Nepal. Our thoughts are with the affected families,” India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tweeted and shared the helpline numbers of the Indian Embassy. Pained by tragic air crash in Nepal: PM Modi: PRIME Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said he was pained by the tragic air crash in Nepal in which precious lives have been lost, including Indian nationals. “Pained by the tragic air crash in Nepal in which precious lives have been lost, including Indian nationals. In this hour of grief, my thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families,” Modi said in a tweet and tagged Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.
Initial rescue efforts hampered: Eyewitness: THE treacherous terrain on the banks of the Seti River hampered the initial rescue efforts by local villagers who rushed to save the passengers on the crashed Nepalese passenger plane. “We heard a loud sound, and when we rushed to the scene (of the crash), we were the only people from the village. It took some time for the police to arrive at the scene, even as we began our rescue efforts,” Tamu was quoted as saying.