DHAKA, March 12, 2018 (BSS) – At least 50 people were killed as an aircraft of Bangladesh’s private US Bangla Airlines crashed and burst into flames while landing at Kathmandu with 71 people onboard, 67 being passengers, international media reports said quoting Nepalese officials.
“We have recovered 50 dead bodies so far,” Reuters quoted army spokesman Gokul Bhandari as saying adding that several people, however, were rescued from the burning wreckage of the Bombardier Dash Q400 series aircraft.
AFP, on the other hand, reported that 31 of them were killed immediately after the crash while Nepalese officials earlier said 21 were rescued alive to be rushed to hospitals but chances appeared slim to find anyone else alive as nine people were still unaccounted for.
“The chances of rescuing anyone (else) alive are slim now because the plane was badly burned,” said a military spokesman as authorities called out army to join the rescue operations alongside fire fighters and others concerned.
Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 said the plane crashed at 2:20 local time (2:50BST) on a football pitch to the east of the runway at ‘s Tribhuvan Airpor as the plane veered off the runway while landing.
The Sweden-based monitor said the plane was a 17-year-old Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop.
Television images showed plumes of black smoke rising from the crash site as the rescue vehicles rushed to the scene while Nepalese media reported that all flights in and out of Nepal’s only international airport were cancelled after the accident.
Bangladesh embassy in Nepal, meanwhile, said 17 injured passengers of the crashed plane were being treated at different hospitals of Nepal and added that it opened a hotline and for any information two embassy officials would be available.
The officials are counselor Mohammad Al Alamul Emam and first secretary Asit Baran Sarker having mobile numbers +9779810100401 and +9779861467422.
US-Bangla officials in Dhaka said there were 67 passengers and four crew onboard the Kathmandu-bound plane from Dhaka, while their records suggested 36 of them including the crew were Bangladeshis while 33 were Nepalese.
“Of the rests one was Maldivians and one was Chinese,” US-Bangla general manager Kamrul Islam told newsmen at the Baridhara office of the airlines, which appeared as Bangladesh’s largest private airlines operating in seven international destinations with eight aircraft.
US-Bangla Airlines chief executive officer Asif Imran said until the flight recorder or black box was recovered it would be impossible to “tell you about the actual reason of the accident”.
Bangladesh’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB) chairman Air Vice Marshal M Naim Hassan told a media briefing that they constituted a three-member investigation committee incorporating a doctor which would go to Nepal as soon as the Kathmandu airport was reopened.
“We are in constant touch with Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority,” he said adding that Bangladesh’s army, navy and air force were ready to be called out anytime if required for the rescue campaign in Kathmandu.
International media reports, meanwhile, said Nepal suffered a number of air disasters in recent years, dealing a blow to its tourist industry while its poor air safety record is blamed largely on inadequate maintenance, inexperienced pilots and substandard management.
A Thai Airways flight from Bangkok crashed while trying to land in Kathmandu in 1992 killing all on board while the latest crash came two years after a Twin Otter turboprop aircraft slammed into a mountainside in Nepal killing all 23 people on board and two days later, two pilots were killed when a small passenger plane crash-landed in the country’s hilly midwest.