Tuesday 26 March 2019

At least 50 killed as passenger plane crashes at Kathmandu airport

The US-Bangla Airlines flight BS211 was travelling from Dhaka in Bangladesh to the capital of Nepal.

The plane flew erratically before crashing, witnesses said (AP)
The plane flew erratically before crashing, witnesses said (AP)

By Binaj Gurubacharya

At least 50 people have died after a plane from Bangladesh crashed and burst into flames as it landed in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, officials and witnesses said.

The exact number of dead and injured on board the plane, which was carrying 71 people, remains unclear amid the chaos of the crash, but a spokesman for Nepal’s army said it was clear that at least 50 people had died.

Officials at Kathmandu Medical College, the closest hospital to the airport, said they were treating 16 survivors.

US-Bangla Airlines flight BS211 from Dhaka to Kathmandu was carrying 67 passengers and four crew members, according to an airline spokesman.

An AP journalist who arrived at the scene soon after the crash saw the twin-propeller plane broken into several large pieces, with dozens of firefighters and rescue workers clustered around the wreckage in a grassy field near the runway

Around 10 people remained unaccounted for (AP)

Hundreds of people stood on a nearby hill, staring down at what remained of the Bombardier Dash 8.

The plane swerved repeatedly as it prepared to land in Kathmandu, according to Amanda Summers, an American citizen working in Nepal. The crowded city sits in a valley in the Himalayan foothills.

“It was flying so low I thought it was going to run into the mountains,” said Ms Summers, who watched the crash from the terrace of her home office, not far from the airport. “All of a sudden there was a blast and then another blast.”

Fire crews put out the flames quickly, perhaps within a minute, she said, though for a time clouds of thick, dark smoke rose into the sky above the city.

The plane swerved repeatedly before crashing, witnesses said (AP)

The plane had circled the airport twice as it waited for clearance to land, Mohammed Selim, the airline’s manager in Kathmandu, told Dhaka-based Somoy TV station.

Medical student Nitin Keyal was about to board a domestic flight when he saw the plane coming in.

“It was flying very low,” he said. “Everyone just froze looking at it. You could tell it wasn’t a normal landing.”

Sixteen survivors are being treated in hospital (AP)

He said the aircraft landed just off the runway, broke apart and burst into flames. “For a few minutes no-one could believe what was happening. It was just terrible,” he said.

US-Bangla Airlines operates Boeing 737-800 and smaller Bombardier Dash 8 Q-400 planes.

The airline, part of US-Bangla Group, is based in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, and flies to several domestic and international destinations. The parent company is involved in a number of industries, including real estate, education and agriculture.

Kathmandu’s airport has been the site of several deadly crashes. In September 2012, a Sita Air turboprop plane carrying trekkers to Mount Everest hit a bird and crashed shortly after take-off, killing all 19 on board.

Press Association

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