Twenty victims found after plane crash in Nepal, hopes for two missing

KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Hopes faded in Nepal on Monday that among the 22 people aboard a small plane that crashed into the Himalayas the previous day, there were only two people left waiting to be discovered, officials said.

Two Germans, four Indians and 16 Nepalese were aboard the de Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter, which crashed 15 minutes after take-off from the tourist city of Pokhara, 125 km west of Kathmandu, on Sunday morning.

“There is very little chance of finding survivors,” said Deo Chandra Lal Karna, a spokesman for the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority.

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Nepalese soldiers and rescue workers had recovered 20 bodies from the wreckage scattered across a steep cliff at an altitude of about 14,500 feet.

The rugged terrain and bad weather impeded the search operations. A photo published in Nepali media showed uniformed rescue workers removing a body from under the wreckage, using ropes to haul it onto a stretcher on a steep, grassy ledge.

“There is a very thick cloud in the area,” Nitra Prasad Sharma, the top bureaucrat in the Mustang district where the accident occurred, told Reuters by telephone. The search for the bodies is underway.”

In Kathmandu, relatives of the victims waited for the bodies to be returned from the crash site, and the aviation authority said in a tweet on Twitter that the official identification of the victims had not yet taken place.

“I am waiting for my son’s body,” Maniram Bukhrel told Reuters in a stifled voice. His son, Utsav Pokrell, 25, was the co-pilot.

The plane, operated by privately owned Tara Air, crashed in overcast weather Sunday morning and the Nepal Army did not detect the wreckage until Monday morning. Read more

The destination was Jomsom, a popular tourist and pilgrimage site located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Pokhara – and the journey usually takes 20 minutes.

But airline officials said the plane lost contact with the control tower in Pokhara five minutes before it was due to land. Read more

The crash site is located near Nepal’s border with China, in the area where Mount Dhaulagiri, the seventh highest peak in the world at 8,167 meters (26,795 feet), is located.

Flight tracker Flightradar24 said the plane, which has registration number 9N-AET, made its first flight in 43 years.

Air accidents are common in Nepal, home to eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest, where the weather can change suddenly, making airstrips in the mountains dangerous.

In early 2018, a Bengal American Airlines flight from Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed on landing and caught fire, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.

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(Gopal Sharma reports). Written by Devgyot Ghoshal and Krishna In Das; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Kenneth Maxwell and Simon Cameron Moore

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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