A plane carrying 72 people has crashed near Pokhara International Airport in Nepal, an airport official says.
The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft operated by Yeti Airlines was en route from Kathmandu, capital of the small Himalayan country, said the official, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.
The plane had a total of 68 passengers and four crew members on board, including two infants and 10 foreign nationals, airline spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said. At least 40 people have been killed. "We expect to recover more bodies," army spokesperson Krishna Bhandari told Reuters. "The plane has broken into pieces."
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal confirmed the plane was flying to Pokhara, and has urged security personnel and the general public to help with the rescue efforts.
Local television and footage posted on Twitter shows thick black smoke billowing from the crash site as hundreds of rescue workers and crowds of people gather around the wreckage of the aircraft.
The plane was 15 years old, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24. The ATR72 is a widely used twin engine turboprop plane manufactured by a joint venture of Airbus and Italy's Leonardo. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 planes, according to its website.
Prime Minister Dahal has called an emergency cabinet meeting after the plane crash, a government statement said.
Air accidents common in Nepal
Air accidents are not uncommon in Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Everest, as the weather can change suddenly and make for hazardous conditions. Last year, 22 people died when a plane crashed on a mountainside.
The Tara Air turboprop Twin Otter aircraft lost contact with the airport tower while flying on a scheduled 20-minute flight in an area of deep river gorges and mountaintops. Four Indians and two Germans were on the plane, Tara Air said. The three crew members and other passengers were Nepali nationals, it said.
In 2018, a US-Bangla passenger plane from Bangladesh crashed on landing in Kathmandu, killing 49 of the 71 people aboard.
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