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A passenger plane with 72 people on board has crashed in Nepal, killing dozens

Locals watch the wreckage of a passenger plane in Pokhara, Nepal, Sunday, Jan.15, 2023. A passenger plane with 72 people on board has crashed near Pokhara International Airport in Nepal, the daily newspaper Kathmandu Post reports. The plane was carrying 68 passengers and four crew members.
Ashish Puri
/
AP
Locals watch the wreckage of a passenger plane in Pokhara, Nepal, Sunday, Jan.15, 2023. A passenger plane with 72 people on board has crashed near Pokhara International Airport in Nepal, the daily newspaper Kathmandu Post reports. The plane was carrying 68 passengers and four crew members.

Updated January 15, 2023 at 9:25 AM ET

MUMBAI, India – First, you see a plane careening on its side, against a deep blue sky. Then it disappears behind buildings. And then you hear the crash.

This footage — of the moment an airliner with 72 people aboard crashed Sunday in central Nepal – appears to have been recorded by a bystander watering plants on their balcony. It was tweeted by regional media and aviation sources.

More video recorded moments later shows a smoking crater at the crash site. A photo shows a huge chunk of the fuselage – with the plane's ID number clearly visible – dangling on the edge.

Dozens of bodies have been recovered. There's no word on any survivors. On Sunday morning, authorities said at least 68 people had been confirmed dead.

That makes this Nepal's deadliest plane crash in decades.

It was a domestic flight by a Nepali carrier, Yeti Airlines. The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft took off early Sunday from Nepal's capital Kathmandu, and crashed around 11 a.m. local time in Pokhara – a popular tourist town in central Nepal that's known as a gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a Himalayan hiking route.

Officials say the passengers included 15 foreigners, three children, three infants and four crew members.

Nepal's prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal – in office for only about three weeks – convened an emergency Cabinet meeting, then traveled to Pokhara's airport to direct relief operations. His government has declared Monday as a day of national mourning.

The Himalayan country has a spotty aviation safety record, and plane crashes – especially of twin-engine propeller planes like this one – are sadly not uncommon. Nepal is home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest. Weather is variable and conditions can be hazardous.

But authorities say the weather was clear Sunday. They're investigating the cause of this crash.

Last spring, a plane operated by the Nepali airline Tara Air crashed after taking off from Pokhara, killing all 22 people on board. Before that, the country's deadliest crash was in March 2018, when a flight from neighboring Bangladesh crashed on landing in Kathmandu, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.

Authorities had just inaugurated a new airport in Pokhara earlier this month, and have been in the process of shifting flights over to the new facility.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.