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Aviation

At least 49 killed in Bangladeshi passenger plane crash on football pitch near Kathmandu airport

Survivor said the plane was ‘behaving strangely’ during its descent while an official said it approached the airport from the wrong direction

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 March, 2018, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 March, 2018, 11:42pm

At least 49 people were killed and 22 injured when a Bangladeshi plane crashed and burst into flames near Kathmandu 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 pitch near the airport.

Rescuers had to cut apart the mangled and burned wreckage of the aircraft to pull people out.

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.

A survivor of the crash said the plane began “behaving strangely” on descent before crash-landing.

Basanta Bohara, a Nepali tour operator who went to Bangladesh for training, said that the hour and 40-minute flight from Bangladesh’s capital was uneventful until the plane began to wobble on its descent into Kathmandu.

“Thank God I was able to escape through a cracked window,” Bohara said at an interview at Norvic International Hospital near the airport, where he was taken with several other injured passengers. “I hope I will survive now.”

Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal director general Sanjiv Gautam told the Indian newspaper the Hindustan Times that the aircraft was supposed to land from the southern side of the runway but it landed from the northern side.

“We are yet to ascertain the reason behind the unusual landing,” he said.

Eye witnesses said the plane crashed as it made a second attempt to land.

Nepal Army spokesman Gokul Bhandaree said seven of the victims survived the impact but later died from 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, said 33 of the passengers were Nepali, 32 were Bangladeshi, one was Chinese and one from the Maldives.

The plane was a Canadian-made Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop, said Mahbubur Rahman of Bangladesh’s civil aviation ministry. 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 said.

Kathmandu airport briefly closed after the accident, forcing inbound flights to be diverted, but it has 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.