A passenger plane carrying 71 people from Bangladesh yesterday crashed and burst into flames as it landed in Kathmandu, killing dozens of people, officials said.
The death toll remained unclear as of press time last night amid the chaos of the crash and the rush of badly injured victims to nearby hospitals.
Nepalese Army spokesman Brigadier General Gokul Bhandari said 50 people had died and the fate of the others was unknown, but a police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said at least 38 people had died, 23 had been injured and 10 were unaccounted for.
The US-Bangla Airlines plane was carrying 67 passengers and four crew members, according to an airline spokesman.
The plane swerved repeatedly as it prepared to land in Kathmandu, said Amanda Summers, an American working in Nepal.
“It was flying so low I thought it was going to run into the mountains,” said Summers, who watched the crash from the terrace of her home office, not far from Tribhuvan International Airport. “All of a sudden there was a blast and then another blast.”
Fire crews put out the flames quickly, perhaps within a minute, she said, though for a time clouds of thick, dark smoke rose into the sky above the city.
The plane had circled the airport twice as it waited for clearance to land, Mohammed Selim, the airline’s manager in Kathmandu, told Dhaka-based Somoy TV station by telephone.
Nitin Keyal was about to board a domestic flight when he saw the plane coming in.
“It was flying very low,” medical student Keyal said. “Everyone just froze looking at it. You could tell it wasn’t a normal landing.”
He said it landed just off the runway, broke apart and burst into flames.
Most of the injured were taken to Kathmandu Medical College.
US-Bangla spokesman Kamrul Islam said the twin-propeller plane was carrying 32 passengers from Bangladesh, 33 from Nepal and one each from China and the Maldives, plus four crew.
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