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Nepal plane crash: Death toll reaches 49; 22 people manage to escape

DDN 2018-03-13 08:56:00

At least 49 people were killed on Monday when a Bangladeshi airliner crashed in cloudy weather as it came in to land at the Nepalese capital's hill-ringed airport, officials said.

The chief executive officer of US-Bangla Airlines, Imran Asif, accused Kathmandu's air traffic control for giving wrong signals.


But airport general manager Raj Kumar Chettri said the pilot disregarded their messages and came in from the wrong direction.


"All of a sudden the plane shook violently and there was a loud bang," one of the survivors, Basanta Bohora, told the Kathmandu Post daily. "I was seated near a window and was able to break out of the window."


The accident was the latest to hit mountainous Nepal, which has a poor record of air safety. Small aircraft ply an extensive domestic network and often run into trouble at remote airstrips.


"So far 49 people are dead and 22 are undergoing treatment at different hospitals," Sanjiv Gautam, executive director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), told reporters.


Several people were rescued from the burning wreckage of the Bombardier Q400 series aircraft and are undergoing treatment at hospitals, army spokesman Gokul Bhandari said.


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 added.


"The plane should have come from the right direction," Chettri said, adding that it hit the airport fence, touched the ground and then caught fire.


It was not immediately clear if the pilot had issued a "Mayday" call, or distress signal.


US-Bangla Airlines' Asif, however, said that wrong signals might have led to the crash.


"A three-minute conversation between the pilot and the air traffic control before the landing indicated that they sent wrong signal to the pilot," he told reporters in Dhaka.