At least 68 people were killed Sunday when a plane crashed near the city of Pokhara in central Nepal, a government official said, in the country’s worst plane crash. in over 30 years.
Sudarshan Partola, spokesman for Yeti Airlines, said 72 people – four crew members and 68 passengers – were on board the ATR-72, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, when it crashed. The Nepal Civil Aviation Authority stated that 37 men, 25 women, three children and three infants.
Army spokesman Krishna Prasad Bhandari said the search effort was called off after dark and would resume Monday morning. Bhandari said hundreds of first responders were still working to locate the four remaining individuals prior to that time.
The Nepal Civil Aviation Authority said at least one infant was among the dead.
Sunday’s accident was the third deadliest crash in the Himalayan country’s history, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network. The only accidents in which more people were killed occurred in July and September 1992. These accidents involved aircraft operated by Thai Airways and Pakistan International Airlines, and left 113 and 167 people dead, respectively.
The Civil Aviation Authority said 53 of the passengers and all four crew members were Nepalese. There were also fifteen foreigners on board: five Indians, four Russians and two Koreans. The rest were citizens of Australia, Argentina, France and Ireland.
The country’s official newspaper, The Rising Nepal, reported that the plane was on its way from the capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, the country’s second most populous city and gateway to the Himalayas. Pokahara is located 129 kilometers (80 miles) west of Kathmandu.
The last time the plane called Pokhara Airport was around 10:50 am local time, about 18 minutes after it took off. Then he descended into the nearby City River valley. Civil Aviation authorities said in a statement that first responders from Nepal Army and various police departments have been deployed to the crash site and are conducting a rescue operation.
A video emerged on social media on Sunday showing moments before the crash. The film, which appears to have been shot from a rooftop in Pokhara, shows the plane flying low over a populated area and rolling on its side before the plane becomes unseen in the clip. A powerful explosion can be heard at the end of the video.
CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the clip.
A five-member committee was formed to investigate the cause of the crash. The quintet must report to the government within 45 days, according to Nepali Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bishnu Paudel.
Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said he was “extremely saddened by the unfortunate and tragic incident”.
“I sincerely appeal to the security personnel, all Nepali government agencies and the general public to start an effective rescue operation,” Dahal said on Twitter.
A spokesman for the prime minister said the government declared Monday a public holiday to mourn the victims.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Russian President conveyed their condolences, as did Australia’s ambassador to Nepal.
Yeti Nepal Airlines said it had canceled all regular flights on Monday, January 16, to mourn the victims of the crash.
The Himalayan country of Nepal is home to eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest, He has a record of aviation accidents. The weather can change suddenly and airstrips are usually located in mountainous areas that are difficult to access.
Last May, a Tara Air flight carrying 22 passengers It hit the Himalayas at about 14,500 feet. It was the 19th plane crash in the country in 10 years and the 10th fatal over the same period, according to Aviation Safety Network Database.
The plane involved in Sunday’s accident was an ATR 72-500, a twin-prop jet that is often used in the Asia-Pacific region, especially among low-cost airlines. Aircraft built by ATR, a joint partnership between European airlines Airbus and Leonardo, enjoy a good reputation.
However, they have been involved in accidents before. Two ATR 72s operated by the now-defunct Taiwanese airline TransAsia were involved in fatal accidents in July 2014 And February 2015. The second prompted Taiwanese authorities to temporarily ground all ATR 72s registered on the island.
In total, the various ATR 72 models were involved in 11 fatal accidents before Sunday’s accident in Nepal, According to the Aviation Safety Network.
ATR said in a statement on Sunday that it had been notified of the incident.
“Our first thoughts are with all of the individuals impacted by this,” the statement read. “ATR professionals are fully engaged to support both the investigation and the client.”