UPDATE – At least 68 killed in Nepal’s worst air crash in 30 years

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KATHMANDU, Jan 15 (Reuters) – At least 68 people were killed on Sunday when a domestic flight crashed in Pokhara in Nepal, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority said, in the worst air crash in three decades in the small Himalayan nation.

Hundreds of rescue workers were scouring the hillside where the Yeti Airlines flight went down.

The plane was carrying 68 passengers and four crew members, the Kathmandu Post newspaper reported, quoting a spokesperson for Yeti Airlines. Euronews reported that on board were five Indian nationals, four Russians, two Koreans, an Australian, an Argentinian, an Irishman and a Frenchman, reported Sudrashan Bardaula of Yeti Airlines.

The weather was clear, said Jagannath Niroula, spokesman for Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority.

“Rescue operations are on,” said Jagannath Niroula, spokesman for Nepal civil aviation authority. “Weather was clear.”

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 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.

Rescue teams work at the wreckage of a Yeti Airlines ATR72 aircraft after it crashed in Pokhara, Nepal, 15 January 2023. A Yeti Airlines ATR72 aircraft with 68 passengers and four crew members aboard crashed into a gorge after takeoff from the Pokhara International Airport. According to officials from the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority, 40 bodies have been recovered so far. EPA-EFE/BIJAYA NEUPANE

There were 72 people on the twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft operated by Yeti on Sunday, including two infants and four crew members, said airline spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula.

The plane had five Indians, four Russians, one Irish, two South Korean, one Australian, one French and one Argentinian national onboard, a Nepal airport official said.

The plane was 15 years old, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

The ATR72 is a widely used twin engine turboprop plane manufactured by a joint venture of Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 planes, according to its website.

FlightRadar24 said the aircraft was equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data. “We are downloading high resolution data and verifying the data quality,” it said on Twitter.

Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has called an emergency cabinet meeting after the plane crash.

Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by William Mallard

Reuters/Euronews/Kathmandu

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