KATHMANDU: At least 40 people were killed and 23 injured when a Bangladeshi plane crashed and burst into flames near Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport on Monday in the worst aviation disaster to hit Nepal in years.
Officials said there were 71 people on board the US-Bangla Airlines plane from Dhaka when it crashed into a football field near the airport.
Rescuers had to cut apart the mangled and burned wreckage of the aircraft to pull people out.
“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 cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but a statement from airport authorities said the plane was “out of control” as it came in to land.
Eyewitnesses said the plane crashed as it made a second attempt to land.
Nepal Army spokesman Gokul Bhandaree said seven of the victims had survived the impact but later died of their injuries.
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.
Airline spokesman Kamrul Islam, told AFP 33 of the passengers were Nepali, 32 were Bangladeshi, one was Chinese, and one was Maldivian.
The plane was a Canadian-made Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop, Mahbubur Rahman of Bangladesh’s civil aviation ministry told AFP. Other sources said the aircraft was 17 years old.
“There might be technical problems on the aircraft. But it has to be probed before making a final statement,” Rahman told AFP.
Kathmandu briefly closed after the accident, forcing inbound flights to divert, but it has since reopened.
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.
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.