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March 13, 2018

49 perish in Nepal plane crash

Top Story

March 13, 2018

KATHMANDU: A plane carrying 71 passengers and crew crashed while landing at Nepal’s Kathmandu airport, killing 49 people and inuring 22, according to police.

The rescuers pulled bodies from the charred wreckage of the plane, operated by Bangladesh airline US-Bangla, after a raging fire was put out. An airline worker said he saw two or three people fall or jump from the windows of the burning plane. The airline has blamed the air traffic control, but the airport says the plane approached from the wrong direction, reported BBC. The flight BS211 veered off the runway while landing on Monday afternoon. The exact cause of the crash remained unclear and Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has promised an immediate investigation.

According to a reported recording of the conversation between the pilot and the air traffic control minutes before the plane crashed, suggests some misunderstanding over which end of the sole runway the plane was cleared to land on.

Moments before the plane crashed, an air traffic controller is heard in the recording, obtained by the BBC from air traffic monitor LiveATC, telling the pilot: "I say again, turn!" The plane, flying from the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, was a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop and was 17 years old. According to flight tracking website FlightRadar24, "the aircraft was cleared to land from the southern side of the runway flying over Koteshwor, but it landed from the northern side," Sanjiv Gautam, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, was quoted as saying by the Kathmandu Post. "We are yet to ascertain the reason behind the unusual landing." The airport general manager Raj Kumar Chettri told Reuters news agency that the plane hit the airport fence before touching the ground. "The plane should have come from the right direction," he said.

However, the US-Bangla Airlines chief executive Imran Asif blamed the Kathmandu air traffic control. "There were wrong directions from the tower. Our pilot was not at fault," he told the reporters at his office in Dhaka. "Our pilot is an instructor of this Bombardier aircraft. His flight hours are over 5,000. There was a fumble from the control tower."

One of the survivors, Nepalese travel agent Basanta Bohora, described his experience from the hospital bed. After a normal take-off from Dhaka, the plane had begun to behave strangely as it approached Kathmandu, he said. "All of a sudden the plane shook violently and there was a loud bang afterwards," he was quoted as saying by the Kathmandu Post. "I was seated near the window and was able to break out of the window," he added. "I have no recollection after I got out of the plane, someone took me to Sinamangal Hospital, and from there my friends brought me to Norvic [Hospital]. I have injuries to my head and legs, but I am fortunate that I survived."

The plane was carrying 67 passengers and four crew. It is now known that 33 of the passengers were Nepalese, 32 were Bangladeshi, one was Chinese and one was from the Maldives. Among the 22 people injured, some are in a critical condition.

There have been many aviation incidents in Nepal, but this is the deadliest since a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed on approach in September 1992, killing all 167 on board. Earlier that same year, a Thai Airways plane crashed near the airport, leaving 113 people dead. Pilots say that landing at Kathmandu airport can be challenging because of the mountainous landscape.-Reuters

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