Nepalis are commemorating the victims of the country’s worst air disaster in three decades.
On Sunday morning, a flight from Kathmandu to the tourist town of Pokhara crashed and caught fire. At least 68 people were killed.
The Yeti Airlines flight was seen rolling sharply as it approached the airport on mobile phone footage.
The cause of the crash is unknown, but Nepal has a tragic history of fatal airline accidents.
A search and rescue operation involving hundreds of Nepalese soldiers was halted overnight due to darkness, but will resume on Monday morning.
Earlier, rescuers were seen scrambling around charred sections of the plane that had crashed into the Seti River gorge, just over a kilometer from the airport.
Although the majority of the 72 passengers and crew died, there were unconfirmed reports that several people survived, albeit critically injured.
Nepal’s prime minister declared Monday a national day of mourning, and the government formed a panel to investigate the disaster’s cause.
“The crash site was already crowded by the time I arrived. The plane’s flames were spewing massive amounts of smoke. The helicopters arrived quickly after that “She stated.
“The pilot did everything he could to avoid hitting civilisation or any homes,” she added. “There was a small space right beside the Seti River, and the flight crashed into it.”
Aviation accidents are not uncommon in Nepal, owing to the country’s remote runways and unpredictable weather patterns.
This Himalayan country, home to some of the world’s most breathtaking mountains, also has some of the most difficult terrain to navigate.
In the past, a lack of investment in new aircraft and poor regulation have also been blamed.
A Tara Air plane crashed in northern Nepal in May 2022, killing 22 people. Four years prior, 51 people were killed when a flight from Bangladesh caught fire as it approached Kathmandu.
The European Union has barred Nepalese airlines from using its airspace due to safety and maintenance concerns.
The Yeti Airlines flight from Kathmandu to the tourist town of Pokhara took off shortly after 10:30 a.m. (04:45 GMT) for what should have been a short flight.
It carried 68 passengers, including at least 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members.
According to reports, 53 of the passengers were Nepalese. The plane carried five Indians, four Russians, and two Koreans. There were also passengers from Ireland, Australia, Argentina, and France, among other countries.
A local resident, Khum Bahadur Chhetri, told Reuters that he was watching the flight from the roof of his house as it approached the airport.
“I saw the plane trembling and moving left and right, and then it nosedived and crashed into the gorge,” Chhetri explained.