At least 68 people killed after plane crashes in Nepal

Yeti Airlines flight was travelling from Kathmandu to Pokhara with 72 passengers and crew aboard

Dozens killed after plane carrying 72 people crashes in Nepal

Crowds gather as rescue teams work to retrieve bodies at the crash site of an aircraft carrying 72 people in Pokhara in western Nepal January 15, 2023.  Bijay Neupane/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.  MANDATORY CREDIT.  NO RESALES.  NO ARCHIVES.
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At least 68 people were killed when a Yeti Airlines flight crashed in Nepal on Sunday morning, officials have said.

There were 68 passengers, including infants, and four crew aboard the ATR 72 aircraft travelling from Kathmandu to Pokhara.

At least 68 people had been killed in the crash, police official AK Chhetri told AFP, and 31 bodies were taken to a local hospital while another 36 remained in the gorge where the plane crashed.

The gorge is between Pokhara’s old airport and its new international airport, a Pokhara airport authority officer told The National.

“We don't know the reason for the crash yet, but the weather was clear,” the official said.

Images and videos posted on social media showed heavy smoke rising after the crash.

Hundreds of rescue workers were scouring the hilltop crash site.

“The plane broke into pieces,” army spokesman Krishna Bhandari told The National.

According to flightradar24.com, the aircraft was 15 years old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data”.

Nepal's civil aviation authority said there were 15 foreign citizens on the flight — five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.

"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," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday.

Pokhara is a popular tourist destination and is known as the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular hiking trail in the Himalayas. The new international airport was opened on January 1.

The crash is Nepal's deadliest since March 2018, when 51 people died in a crash-landing near Kathmandu's international airport.

Plane crashes are common in Nepal, which has a poor flight safety record and infrastructure.

Yeti Airlines is the country's second-largest carrier after Buddha Air. In 2018, it was voted one of the world's worst airlines.

Nepali airlines have been banned from European Union airspace since 2013, after eight Britons were killed in a Kathmandu plane crash.

Its airports are difficult to land in, and the mountainous terrain can create hazardous weather.

In May, 22 people died when a plane crashed in a mountainous area after departing from Pokhara.

That crash prompted authorities to tighten regulations, including clearing flights for take-off only if there was favourable weather forecast throughout the route.

That accident was Nepal's deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.

Just two months earlier, 113 people were killed when a Thai Airways aircraft crashed near the same airport.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: January 18, 2023, 10:02 AM