At least 40 dead, 23 injured in Kathmandu plane crash: official

Monday March 12 2018

Nepali rescue workers gather around the debris

Nepali rescue workers gather around the debris of an airplane that crashed near the international airport in Kathmandu on March 12, 2018. At least 40 people have been killed and 23 injured. AFP PHOTO | PRAKASH MATHEMA 

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At least 40 people were killed and 23 injured when a Bangladeshi passenger plane crashed near Kathmandu airport Monday, an official said.

"Thirty-one people died at the spot and nine died at two hospitals in Kathmandu," police spokesman Manoj Neupane told AFP, adding another 23 were injured.

The US-Bangla Airlines plane was arriving from Dhaka when it crashed into a football field near the airport.

There were 67 passengers and four crew on board the US-Bangla Airlines plane from Dhaka.

Plumes of black smoke could be seen rising from the football pitch where the plane crashed, to the east of the runway at Nepal's only international airport, in the capital Kathmandu.

"Police and army are trying to cut apart the plane to rescue others," airport spokesman Prem Nath Thakur said.

Live footage posted on Facebook showed the towering columns of smoke rising behind the runway, where another plane stood waiting on the tarmac.

The plane crashed as it was coming in to land, sending firefighters scrambling to extinguish the burning wreckage and rescue survivors.

Emergency vehicles appeared to be heading into the smoke as people watched from a distance or filmed on their mobile phones.

Airport closed

The plane was a 17-year-old Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop, said Swedish-based aircraft flight information service Flightradar24 on its Twitter account.

It said Kathmandu's airport was closed due to the accident, and inbound flights were either turning back or being diverted elsewhere.

Nepal has suffered 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 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 midwest.

US-Bangla Airlines is a private carrier that launched in July 2014 with the motto "Fly Fast Fly Safe", according to its website.

The Dhaka-based airline made its first international flight in May 2016 to Kathmandu, and has since expanded with routes to South Asia, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

In 2015 one of its planes overshot the runway on landing at Saidpur in northwest Bangladesh. There were no reports of injuries.