KATHMANDU, May 14 (IANS): At least seven Indians were among those killed when an airplane carrying 21 people crashed on a cliff in western Nepal, less than seven months after 10 Indian tourists were killed in an aircrash.
There were differing accounts of the dead and the injured. Xinhua news agency said that 17 bodies have been found and four people have been rescued. However, myrepublica.com said that 15 people were killed and six have been rescued.
The aeroplane belonging to Agni Air crashed in Jomsom in western Nepal, known for its splendid mountain views and the starting point for major trekking routes, at about 9.45 a.m. Monday.
Seven bodies of Indians have been found near the crash site, myrepublica.com said in an initial report.
The plane was flying from Pokhara, a major tourist destination, to Jomsom, a distance of about 60 km.
Pramod Pandey, marketing director of Agni Air, said there were 16 Indians on board and that there were six survivors.
The plane had taken off from Pokhara airport at 9.30 a.m. and crashed 15 minutes later on a cliff, while it was about to return to Pokhara following a technical glitch, Yogendra Kunwar, assistant manager at traffic control room in Pokhara airport, was quoted as saying.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Gynanedra Singh Bhandari told Xinhua that the plane crashed behind the army barracks.
He also said that police and army were conducting rescue operations along with stand-by flights to carry the injured.
He added that the quick response operation could be launched as it crashed near the army barracks.
Myrepublica.com quoted Laxmi Raj Sharma, chief district officer of Mustang, as saying that 15 bodies had been recovered, including the bodies of pilot Prabhu Sharan Pathak and co-pilot J.D. Maharjan.
Six passengers, including three children, two foreigners and an air hostess R. Haiju, were rescued.
Those rescued were in a critical condition.
Nepalnews.com said that the passengers were going to Jomsom to pay a visit to Muktinath, a popular pilgrimage site both Hindus and Buddhists.
Monday's aircrash took place at Jomsom which is the starting point for treks like the Kagbeni, Marpha, Muktinath and Mustang treks.
Jomsom is the capital and administration headquarters of Mustang district, which stretches from the Tibetan border to Ghasa along the Kali Gandaki River. The deepest gorge in the world lies here along the Kali Gandaki as the river passes between two eight thousanders, Mt Annapurna and Mt Dhaulagiri.
The tragedy was a reminder of the Sep 25, 2011 aircrash in which all 19 people, mostly Indian tourists, were killed after a small plane carrying them crashed close to capital city Kathmandu.
The small aircraft, belonging to domestic airline Buddha Air, was flying mostly tourists on a mountain flight in northern Nepal when it crashed in Kotdanda in Lalitpur district, close to Kathmandu.
Agni Air, which began operations March 16, 2006 with one Dornier Do-228 aircraft, is now operating six aircraft, 3 Dornier-228 Aircrafts built in German and 3 Jetstream-41 built in Britain to various domestic sectors, its website said.
It flies to the popular tourist destinations such as Lukla, Tumlingtar, Biratnagar, Bhadrapur, Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Jomsom.