Hundreds of emergency workers resumed a search and rescue mission in Nepal on Monday after a deadly plane crash that once again highlighted the dangers of air travel in a country often described as one of the riskiest places to fly.
At least 68 of the 72 people on board were killed when a Yeti Airlines plane crashed near the city of Pokhara on Sunday.
Four others remain missing, but Kaski District Superintendent of Police Ajay KC said on Monday that the chances of finding survivors were “extremely low” as workers pulled the bodies out of the gorge with a crane.
The crash is the Himalayan country’s worst air disaster in 30 years. It is also the third worst aviation accident in Nepal’s history, according to the Aviation Safety Network.
Experts say conditions such as inclement weather, poor visibility and mountainous topography contribute to Nepal’s reputation as notoriously dangerous for aviation.
A Yeti Airlines flight on Sunday almost ended its short journey from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara when it lost contact with the control tower. According to the country’s Civil Aviation Authority, there were about 15 foreign nationals on the plane.
Pokhara, a city by the lake, is a popular tourist destination and gateway to the Himalayas. It is part of the famous Annapurna Circuit trekking route, where the 2019 more than 181,000 foreigners visited, the starting point.
The cause of the accident is now being investigated by a government committee with the help of French authorities. The Yeti Airlines plane was manufactured by ATR, an aerospace company headquartered in France.
The plane’s black box, which records flight data, was found on Monday and will be handed over to the civil aviation authority, officials said.
Unstable weather isn’t the only problem with flying. Based on 2019 According to a safety report by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the country’s “hostile topography” is also part of the “enormous challenge” pilots face.
Nepal, a country of 29 million people, is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, and its beautiful rugged landscapes make it a popular tourist destination.
However, the area can be difficult to navigate from the air, especially in bad weather, and the situation is further complicated by the need to use small aircraft to reach more remote and mountainous parts of the country.
Airplanes with 19 or fewer seats are more likely to crash because of these challenges, the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.
Kathmandu is the main transit hub in Nepal, where many of these small flights depart.
The airport in the town of Lukla in the north-east of Nepal is often called the most dangerous airport in the world. Known as the gateway to Everest, the airport’s runway is built on a cliff between the mountains, and at the end it drops straight into the abyss. There have been many fatal accidents over the years, including 2008 and 2019.
Lack of investment in aging aircraft only increases the risks of flying.
in 2015 The International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, has prioritized assistance to Nepal through its Aviation Safety Implementation Assistance Partnership. Two years later, ICAO and Nepal announced a partnership to address safety concerns.
Although the country has improved its safety standards in recent years, challenges remain.
in 2022 in May, a Tara Air flight from Pokhara crashed into a mountain, killing 22 people.
in 2018 A US-Bangla Airlines flight en route from the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed and caught fire, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.
And in 2016, a Tara Air plane crashed while flying on the same route as the aircraft that disappeared on Sunday. This incident involved a recently acquired Twin Otter aircraft flying in clear conditions.