Nepal begins national mourning after 68 killed in deadly plane crash
Nepal began a national day of mourning Monday, a day after a plane crashed while attempting to land at a newly opened airport, killing at least 68 of the 72 people aboard. Rescue workers rappelled down a 300-meter (984 feet) gorge to continue the search. Two more bodies have been found Monday morning. The army, police and rescue workers are also scouring the debris for the flight data recorder. It remains unclear what caused the crash, the Himalayan country's deadliest airplane accident in three decades. A witness who recorded footage of the plane’s descent from his balcony said he saw the plane flying low before it suddenly veered to its left. “I saw that and I was shocked… I thought that today everything will be finished here after it crashes, I will also be dead,” said Diwas Bohora. After it crashed, red flames erupted and the ground shook violently, like an earthquake, Bohora said. “I was scared. Seeing that scene, I was scared.” Another witness said he saw the aircraft spinning violently in the air after it began descending to land, watching from the terrace of his house. Finally, Gaurav Gurung said, the plane fell nose-first towards its left and crashed into the gorge. Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said the aircraft last made contact with the airport from near Seti Gorge at 10:50 a.m. before crashing. Read more: Small plane crashes into Tanzania's Lake Victoria, 19 dead The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, was competing the 27-minute flight from the capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, 200 kilometers (125 miles) west. It was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France. The bodies are being kept in the Pokhara Academy of Health and Science, Western Hospital. Gyan Khakda, a police spokesperson in the district, said 31 bodies have been identified and will be handed over to family after officials finish post mortem reports. The bodies of foreigners and those that are unrecognizable will be sent to Kathmandu for further investigation. On Sunday, Twitter was awash with images that showed plumes of smoke billowing from the crash site, about 1.6 kilometers (nearly a mile) away from Pokhara International Airport. The aircraft’s fuselage was split into multiple parts that were scattered down the gorge. Hours after dark, scores of onlookers remained crowded around the crash site near the airport in the resort town of Pokhara as rescue workers combed the wreckage on the edge of the cliff and in the ravine below. Local resident Bishnu Tiwari, who rushed to the crash site near the Seti River to help search for bodies, said the rescue efforts were hampered by thick smoke and a raging fire. “The flames were so hot that we couldn’t go near the wreckage. I heard a man crying for help, but because of the flames and smoke we couldn’t help him,” Tiwari said. At Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, family members appeared distraught as they waited for information. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal rushed to the airport after the crash and set up a panel to investigate the accident. ”The incident was tragic. The full force of the Nepali army, police has been deployed for rescue,” he said. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it’s still trying to confirm the fate of two South Korean passengers and has sent staff to the scene. The Russian Ambassador to Nepal, Alexei Novikov, confirmed the death of four Russian citizens who were on board the plane. Omar Gutiérrez, governor of Argentina’s Neuquen province, wrote on his official Twitter account that an Argentine passenger on the flight was Jannet Palavecino, from his province. The Facebook page of Palavecino says she was manager of the Hotel Suizo in Neuquen city. She described herself as a lover of travel and adventure tourism. Read more: 68 confirmed dead as passenger plane with 72 on board crashes near Pokhara airport Pokhara is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular hiking trail in the Himalayas. The city’s new international airport began operations only two weeks ago. The type of plane involved, the ATR 72, has been used by airlines around the world for short regional flights. Introduced in the late 1980s by a French and Italian partnership, the aircraft model has been involved in several deadly accidents over the years. In Taiwan two earlier accidents involving ATR 72-500 and ATR 72-600 aircrafts happened just months apart. In July 2014, a TransAsia ATR 72-500 flight crashed while trying to land on the scenic Penghu archipelago between Taiwan and China, killing 48 people onboard. An ATR 72-600 operated by the same Taiwanese airline crashed shortly after takeoff in Taipei in February 2015 after one of its engines failed and the second was shut down, apparently by mistake. The 2015 crash, captured in dramatic footage that showed the plane striking a taxi as it hurtled out of control, killed 43, and prompted authorities to ground all Taiwanese-registered ATR 72s for some time. TransAsia ceased all flights in 2016 and later went out of business. ATR identified the plane involved in Sunday’s crash as an ATR 72-500 in a tweet. According to plane tracking data from flightradar24.com, the aircraft was 15 years old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data.” It was previously flown by India’s Kingfisher Airlines and Thailand’s Nok Air before Yeti took it over in 2019, according to records on Airfleets.net. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 planes, company spokesperson Sudarshan Bartaula said. Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, has a history of air crashes. According to the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety database, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946. According to a 2019 safety report from Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, the country’s “hostile topography” and “diverse weather patterns” were the major challenges surrounding aviation operations in the nation, also resulting in a “number of accidents” to small aircrafts. The report said such accidents happened at airports that had short strips of runway for takeoff and landing and most were due to pilot error. The report added that 37% of all air crashes in Nepal between 2009 and 2018 were due to pilot error and 50% of all air crashes took place when the airplanes were in “en route phase of flying.” These crashes don’t include helicopters and recreational planes. Sunday’s crash is Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it plowed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu. The European Union has banned airlines from Nepal from flying into the 27-nation bloc since 2013, citing weak safety standards. In 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organization cited improvements in Nepal’s aviation sector, but the EU continues to demand administrative reforms.
Bangladesh declares 3 days of mourning for Queen
Bangladesh on Friday declared three days of national mourning in memory of British Queen Elizabeth II who died on Thursday after 70 years on the throne. From September 9 to September 11, the national flag will be kept at half-mast at all government, semi-government and autonomous organisations, educational institutions, non-government buildings and Bangladesh missions abroad, according to a notification issued by the Cabinet division. Special prayers for the departed soul will also be arranged, as per the notification. Also read: Queen Elizabeth II: Britain's longest reigning monarch, no more Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-reigning monarch died on Thursday afternoon at the age of 96. The Buckingham Palace announced that she died at Balmoral Castle, her summer residence in Scotland, in the presence of members of the Royal Family.
India declares national mourning for ex-Japan PM Shinzo Abe
India on Friday declared a one-day national mourning on Saturday in memory of former Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed "shock" at the assassination of "one of my dearest friends". "I am shocked and saddened beyond words at the tragic demise of one of my dearest friends, Shinzo Abe. He was a towering global statesman, an outstanding leader, and a remarkable administrator. He dedicated his life to make Japan and the world a better place," Modi tweeted. Read: Japan ex-leader Shinzo Abe assassinated while giving speech PM Modi also lauded 67-year-old Abe for his "immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a Special Strategic and Global Partnership". "Today, whole India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment. As a mark of our deepest respect for former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, a one day national mourning shall be observed on 9 July 2022," he wrote. Recalling his association with Abe, Modi said that he had got to know him "during my tenure as Gujarat CM and our friendship continued after I became PM". "His sharp insights on economy and global affairs always made a deep impression on me." Read: Japan ex-leader Shinzo Abe apparently shot, in heart failure "During my recent visit to Japan, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Abe again and discuss many issues. He was witty and insightful as always. Little did I know that this would be our last meeting. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the Japanese people," the Indian PM wrote. The former Japanese PM was assassinated by a former Navy personnel while giving a campaign speech in the southern city of Nara. He was pronounced dead five hours later at a hospital where he was airlifted to.