All feared dead after Yeti plane crash in Nepal with 72 onboard

KATHMANDU, 15 Jan 2023:

Nepali authorities have recovered at least 68 bodies after an airplane operated by Yeti Airlines crashed today on its way to Pokhara after taking off from Kathmandu, with 72 people onboard.

The latest death toll was confirmed by Prem Nath Thakur, spokesman for the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, who added that the search for the four missing passengers was ongoing.

The ATR-72 aircraft crashed at around 10.30am in the Pokhara district, a popular tourist destination, around 200km west of the capital.

Yeti Airlines spokesperson Sudarshan Bartaula earlier said that aircraft had been carrying 68 passengers and four crew members, and crashed while trying to land at the Pokhara International Airport.

Local media has reported around a dozen passengers were foreigners, with South Korea confirming two of its citizens were onboard.

Prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal tweeted an appeal to security personnel, government agencies and the general public to launch an effective rescue effort.

Videos circulated on social media showed thick columns of smoke coming out of the accident site.

Pokhara airport serves as the connecting hub for travellers headed to Jomsom, situated high up in the Himalayas – which is a popular destination for foreign tourists aiming to visit Mt Annapurna (8,091m) or the Mustang region. It is also a popular transit hub for Hindu pilgrims.

Nepal, which houses eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains including Mt Everest, has a poor flight safety record and witnesses accidents frequently.

The country has been criticised and sanctioned due to a lack of safety oversight by the aviation authorities, with the EU denying Nepalese airlines access to its airspace since 2013.

The worst air crash in Nepal in recent years had taken place in March 2018, when a Bangladeshi airline AS-Bangla aircraft crashed during landing at Kathmandu International Airport, with 67 passengers and four crew members on board. The crash killed 51 people, while 20 others survived.