Eighteen injured passengers have been rescued, a Nepalese official says
At least 49 people were killed on Monday when a US-Bangla Airlines flight crashed in cloudy weather as it came in to land at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
As many as 71 people, including four crew members, were on-board the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft, of which 37 were Bangladeshis, 32 were Nepalis, one Chinese and one Maldivian nationals.
Emergency services rescued 25 people from the aircraft and took them to Kathmandu Medical College and Teaching Hospital, but seven among the rescued were pronounced dead upon arrival, Reuters reported quoting TIA spokesperson Prem Nath Thakur.
Bangladesh Foreign Ministry, however, in a statement issued later in the evening confirmed that 22 people were rescued alive.
Another TIA official said: “The plane caught fire immediately after veering off the runway when it was about to crash into the hanger.”
Authorities have recovered the black box of the aircraft. The accident is the latest to hit Nepal, which has a poor record of air safety. Small aircraft ply an extensive domestic network and often run into trouble at remote airstrips.
A hotline has been setup by the Bangladesh High Commission in Nepal. Counsellor Mohammad Al Alamul Emam can be reached at +9779810100401 and First Secretary Asit Baran Sarkerat +9779861467422.
Casualties and survivors
Bangladesh Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Shahjahan Kamal said 14 Bangladeshis have been rescued alive.
The pilot, Captain Abid Sultan is among them. His co-pilot First Officer Prithula Rashid has been confirmed dead by the hospital.
The status of flight attendants KHM Shafey and Sharmin Akhter remain uncertain.
A group of 13 Nepali students studying in Ragib Rabeya Medical College in Sylhet were returning home on the flight. College authorities confirmed their deaths via a Kathmandu-based consultant.
The airliner’s General Manager (marketing and public relations) Kamrul Islam said an inquiry team will fly to Nepal as soon as the airport opens and that they are in touch with Nepali authorities constantly.
Airlines and airport at odds
US-Bangla Airlines Chief Executive Officer Imran Asif claimed the Tribhuvan International Airport authorities were at fault.
He said the air traffic control tower issued incorrect information which led to the crash.
But TIA General Manager Raj Kumar Chettri said the pilot disregarded their messages and came in from the wrong direction.
Chettri said that moments after the plane received permission to land, the pilot said he wanted to go in a northern direction. Asked by the control tower if there was a problem, he replied in the negative.
The plane was then seen making two rounds in a northeast direction, Chettri said. Traffic controllers again asked the pilot if things were OK, and he replied, “Yes.”
The airport has a sole runway, referred to as runway 02 and runway 20 depending on the approach vector.
The tower then told the pilot his alignment was not correct, but there was no reply, Chettri added.
“The plane should have come from the right direction,” Chettri said, adding that it hit the airport fence, touched the ground and then caught fire.
It was not immediately clear if the pilot had issued a distress signal.
US-Bangla CEO Imran said that wrong signals might have led to the crash.
“A three-minute conversation between the pilot and the air traffic control before the landing indicated that they sent wrong signal to the pilot,” he told reporters in Dhaka.
PM Hasina calls Nepal PM, cuts Singapore trip short
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called Nepal Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli on Monday evening and offered all available assistance. The Nepal PM told PM Hasina he immediately went to the crash site and issued instructions to combat the emergency.
PM Hasina said she will despatch teams to Nepal help with the rescue once the airport reopens.
She called off her four-day state visit to Singapore and will be returning this evening. The press wing of the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the change in plans.
President, speaker expresses grief
President Abdul Hamid and Jatiya Sangsad Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury expressed profound shock and sorrow at the casualties in separate condolence messages.
They prayed for eternal peace of the departed souls of the crash victims and conveyed profound sympathy to their family members.
AL, BNP offer condolences
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader also expressed his condolences and sympathy for the family members of the deceased and injured.
BNP Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi also conveyed the concerns and condolences on behalf of Bangladesh Nationalist Party.