Search for missing people resumes as Yeti Airlines disaster highlights dangers of flying in Nepal

Search for missing people resumes as Yeti Airlines disaster highlights dangers of flying in Nepal
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Hundreds of emergency personnel resumed a search and recovery mission in Nepal on Monday after a dead plane crash which has once again highlighted the dangers of air travel in a country often referred to as one of the riskiest places to fly.

Of the 72 people on board, at least 68 died when a Yeti Airlines flight crashed near the city of Pokhara on Sunday.

Four others are still missing, but Kaski District Police Chief Superintendent Ajay KC said on Monday the chance of finding survivors was “extremely low” as workers used a crane to lift the bodies out of the gorge.

The accident is the worst air disaster in the Himalayan nation in 30 years. It is also the third worst aviation accident in Nepal’s history, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network.

Experts say conditions such as inclement weather, low visibility and mountainous topography contribute to Nepal’s reputation as notoriously dangerous for aviation.

The Yeti Airlines flight on Sunday had almost finished its short journey from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara when it lost contact with a control tower. About 15 foreign citizens were traveling on board, according to the country’s civil aviation authority.

Pokhara, a lakeside city, is a popular tourist destination and gateway to the Himalayas. It serves as the starting point for the famous Annapurna Circuit trekking route, with more than 181,000 foreigners visiting the area in 2019.

A government committee is now investigating the cause of the accident, with the help of the French authorities. The Yeti Airlines aircraft was manufactured by the French-based aerospace company ATR.

The plane’s black box, which records flight data, was recovered on Monday and will be handed over to the civil aviation authority, authorities said.

Fickle weather patterns aren’t the only problem for flight operations. according to a security report 2019 From the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority, the country’s “hostile topography” is also part of the “enormous challenge” pilots face.

A country of 29 million people, Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest, and its ruggedly beautiful landscapes make it a popular tourist destination for trekkers.

But this terrain can be difficult to navigate from the air, particularly during bad weather, and matters are made worse by the need to use small planes to access the most remote and mountainous parts of the country.

Aircraft with 19 seats or fewer are more likely to have accidents due to these challenges, according to the Civil Aviation Authority report.

Kathmandu is the main transit hub in Nepal, from where many of these small flights depart.

The airport in the city of Lukla, in northeastern Nepal, is often referred to as the most dangerous airport in the world. Known as the gateway to Everest, the airport’s runway sits on a cliff between mountains, dropping directly into a chasm at the end. It has seen multiple fatal crashes over the years, including in 2008 and 2019.

Lack of investment in aging aircraft only increases flight risks.

In 2015, the International Civil Aviation Organization, an agency of the United Nations, priority to help Nepal through its Aviation Safety Implementation Assistance Association. Two years later, ICAO and Nepal announced a partnership to resolve security issues.

While the country has made improvements to safety standards in recent years, challenges remain.

In May 2022, a Tara Air flight departing from Pokhara crashed into a mountainkilling 22 people.

In early 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines flight from the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed on landing and caught fire, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.

And in 2016, a Tara Air flight it crashed while flying the same route as the aircraft that went missing on Sunday. That incident involved a recently purchased Twin Otter aircraft that was flying in clear conditions.

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