Dhaka – At least 49 people have been killed after a private airlines flight crashed in Nepalese capital Kathmandu on Monday, officials said.
The Kathmandu-bound flight of US-Bangla airlines from Dhaka carrying 67 passengers on board burst into fire as it veered off the runway while landing at Tribhuvan International Airport in the afternoon, according to Nepalese media.
Bangladeshi authorities, however, put the death figure to 45 while they said 10 people were still missing.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who are in separate trips to India and Singapore expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the air tragedy.
State-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha news agency reported quoting officials said the 71 people onboard the aircraft. Sixty-seven of them were passengers.
“According to our information 45 people who were on the flight were killed . . . 10 are missing,” state minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam said.
Nepalese media reported that 49 bodies were recovered from the burning wreckage of the Bombardier Dash Q400 series aircraft.
Authorities in Nepal called in the army for the rescue operations immediately after the aircraft crashed.
A Flight tracking website said the plane crashed at 2:20 local time on a football ground to the east of the runway of the airport.
Television footage 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 for hours after the accident.
Bangladesh embassy in Nepal, said 17 injured passengers of the plane were rushed to different hospitals of Nepal and added that it opened a hotline and for any information. The embassy could be contacted through mobile numbers +9779810100401 and +9779861467422.
US-Bangla officials in Dhaka said there were 67 passengers and four crew members aboard the plane. Thirty-six 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 in Dhaka.
Bangladesh formed a three-member committee to investigate the crash, said Civil Aviation Authority chairman Air-Vice Marshal M Naim Hassan.
“We are in constant touch with Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority,” he said.
Kathmandu airport authorities issued a statement saying the plane was “out of control” as it came in to land while officials said there might have been confusion between air traffic control and the pilot over which runway the plane was meant to land on.
The airport’s general manager Raj Kumar Chettri said that moments after the plane received permission to land, the pilot said he wanted to go in a northern direction. Asked by the control tower if there was a problem, he replied in the negative.
The plane was then seen making two rounds in a northeast direction, Chettri said. Traffic controllers again asked the pilot if things were OK, and he replied, “Yes”.
The tower then told the pilot his alignment was not correct, but there was no reply, Chettri said.
But the US-Bangla Airlines CEO suspected the confusing directions from the control tower might have caused the crash.
One of the survivors, Nepalese travel agent Basanta Bohora, described from his hospital bed what he had experienced saying after a normal take-off from Dhaka, the plane had begun to behave strangely as it approached Kathmandu.
“All of a sudden the plane shook violently and there was a loud bang . . . I was seated near a window and was able to break out of it,” Bohora told the Kathmandu Post daily.
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 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.
Two days later, two pilots were killed when a small passenger plane crash- landed in the country’s hilly mid-west.