49 dead as plane crashes at Kathmandu airport in Nepal

Rescue workers work at the wreckage of a US-Bangla airplane after it crashed at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal March 12, 2018. REUTERS/ Navesh Chitrakar

At least 49 people were killed Monday after a plane crashed on a runway at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport in Nepal.

The plane was carrying 71 people, including the crew, and was arriving from Dhaka Bangladesh when the incident took place at around 2:15 p.m. local time.

Flight BS 211 of the US-Bangla Airlines, a Bangladeshi carrier, had approached the runway from the wrong direction, swerved erratically, and flew dangerously low before it crashed and burst into flames.

Forty bodies were recovered from the crashed plane while nine victims died in various hospitals. The 22 survivors of the crash are still receiving treatment in hospitals.

Nepal Police Spokesperson DIG Manoj Neupane said 12 of the survivors have been admitted at Kathmandu Medical College Hospital, four at Norvic Hospital, three at Grande Hospital, one at Om Hospital, and one at Medicity.

According to Tribhuvan Airport general manager Raj Kumar Chhetri, the passengers were mostly from Nepal and Bangladesh, with one from China and another from the Maldives. All four crew members were from Bangladesh.

There seemed to have been misunderstanding between the plane and air traffic control regarding the direction from which the airplane should approach the landing strip.

“The plane had permission to land from the southern side of the runway but they instead landed from the northern side. Authorities do not know why they did not land from the southern side,” said Chhetri.

In the recording of the communication between the pilot and the air traffic controller, the pilot asks just before landing, “Are we cleared to land?”

In response, the controller tells the pilot, “I say again, turn!” in a tone that is rarely used in air traffic communications.

“It was flying northwards and it was much too low,” said Amanda Summers, a retired American residing in Kathmandu. “I thought at first that maybe it was extra cloud cover that was forcing the plane to fly low. Then I saw the plane change direction almost completely and it was flying straight towards us. Then it lost more altitude and finally crashed.”