At least 50 killed after US-Bangla Airlines plane slides off runway during landing at Kathmandu airport.
A Bangladeshi aircraft has crashed while trying to land at Kathmandu airport in Nepal, killing at least 50 people, officials have said.
The US-Bangla Airlines plane made an unexpected turn while landing just after 2.15pm local time on Monday, clipping a fence and bursting into flames, according to the airport’s general manager, Raj Kumar Chettri.
The aircraft came off the runway and fell down a slope, sliding for about 300 metres before it stopped on a football field, leaving a trail of twisted metal, paper and luggage along the burnt grass.
There were 67 passengers on board flight: 33 Nepali nationals, 32 from Bangladesh and one each from China and the Maldives. There was also four crew.
“We have recovered 50 dead bodies so far,” Gokul Bhandari, an army spokesman, told Reuters. Several people had been rescued from the wreckage of the Bombardier Q400 aircraft, but nine were still unaccounted for, he added.
Thick plumes of dark smoke rose above the airport as firefighters battled to extinguish the wreckage. At least 24 badly burned bodies, some covered with cloth and others in partially sealed body bags, could be seen beside the charred frame of the plane.
“All of a sudden the plane shook violently and there was a loud bang,” one of the survivors, Basanta Bohora, told the Kathmandu Post. “I was seated near a window and was able to break out of the window.”
Chettri said the pilot had received permission to land from a southern direction but then requested to approach from the north instead. He had reassured air traffic controllers there was no problem but did not reply after he was warned his alignment was incorrect, the airport official added.
“The plane should have come from the right direction,” Chettri told Reuters.
An official from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said it was unclear why the pilot had sought to change directions. “We are yet to ascertain the reason behind the unusual landing,” Sanjiv Gautam told the Kathmandu Post.
Amanda Summers, an American who works in Nepal, watched the crash happen from the terrace of her home office, not far from the airport.
“It was flying so low I thought it was going to run into the mountains,” she told Associated Press, adding that it was unclear whetherthe plane had reached the runway when it landed. “All of a sudden there was a blast and then another blast,” she said.
Survivors were rushed to nearby medical facilities including Kathmandu medical college. Twenty-four people were taken to the hospital but eight died soon after arriving.
The scene at the hospital was chaotic as family members pushed through crowds to identify their relatives. People wrapped scarves and jumpers around their mouths to shield against the smell of burnt bodies. One mother collapsed after identifying her daughter’s severely injured body in a blue bag.
“I closed my eyes and I could not see. The next thing I saw was fire, that’s all I remember,” said Alma Nahar Eni, a Bangladeshi national who was flying with her husband and two-year-old daughter.
She only broke her foot in the crash but did not know the fate of the rest of her family. “Please just find my husband and my daughter,” she said, sobbing.
Outside the facility, Ganga Baran and her husband were awaiting news of their daughter, Algina. “[She] called me at 12:12pm from the airplane,” Baran said.
“She said, Mum, I’m sitting on the plane. I replied, have a safe journey.”
The same aircraft reportedly skidded from a runway at Bangladesh’s Saidpur airport in September 2015 while carrying 74 passengers. The aircraft sustained minor damage but no passengers or crew members were reported injured.
A US-Bangla aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Dhaka last week after its pilot noticed a problem with the propeller. It is unclear whether it was the same aircraft involved in Monday’s crash.
Nepal has had a number of air disasters in recent years, dealing a blow to its tourist industry.
Its poor air safety record has been blamed largely on inadequate maintenance, inexperienced pilots and substandard management.
In early 2016, a twin otter turboprop aircraft hit a mountainside in Nepal, killing all 23 people on board.
Two days later, two pilots were killed when a small passenger plane crash-landed in the country’s hilly midwest.