Officials in Nepal say a passenger plane from Bangladesh crashed and burst into flames as it was attempting to land at the Kathmandu airport, killing at least 50 people.
A spokesman for the Dhaka-based U.S.-Bangla Airlines said 71 people, including four crew members, were on board the aircraft. Of the 67 passengers, 32 were from Bangladesh, 33 from Nepal, and one each from China and the Maldives. Witnesses say the plane swerved repeatedly and was flying low before the accident happened.
Officials say several people were rescued from the burning wreckage of the Canadian-made twin propeller plane, a Bombardier Dash 8.
The chief executive officer of U.S.-Bangla Airlines, Imran Asif, accused Kathmandu’s air traffic control of giving incorrect signals for the landing.
Airport officials said the pilot had been told to approach the runway from the south, but he instead came in for landing from the north. They say air traffic controllers told the pilot he was not properly aligned with the runway, and asked if things were okay, to which he replied, “Yes.”
Reporters who arrived at the scene after the crash say the plane had broken into several large pieces and lay on a grassy field near the runway.
Nepali Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli visited the plane crash site hours after the accident.
Rescue workers worked throughout the day to remove bodies from the plane and to search for any survivors.
Witnesses say fire crews put out the flames within minutes, but that for a time a cloud of thick, dark smoke rose above the wreckage.
The airport briefly closed after the accident, but has since reopened.
There has been a series of accidents at Kathmandu’s airport in the past.
In 1992, a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok crashed while trying to land, killing all 113 aboard. Just two months later, a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed as it approached the airport, killing all 167 people on board.
The most recent crash at the airport causing fatalities was in 2012, when a Sita Air turboprop plane carrying trekkers to Mount Everest hit a bird and crashed after takeoff. All 19 people on board were killed.
Source: Voice of America