Nepal observed a day of mourning on Monday for the victims of the nation's deadliest aviation disaster in three decades, with 67 people confirmed killed in the plane crash.The Yeti Airlines ATR 72 plummeted into a steep gorge, smashed into pieces and burst into flames with 72 people on board as it approached the central city of Pokhara on Sunday, police said.Soldiers used ropes and stretchers to retrieve bodies from the 300-metre (1,000-foot) deep ravine late into the night, with recovery efforts set to resume on Monday."We have so far sent 63 bodies to the hospital," said police officer AK Chhetri on Monday."Due to fog, the search has been paused. We will continue the search after one or two hours when the weather clears."There was no word on the fate of the five people still unaccounted for.Debris from the twin-engine turboprop airliner was strewn across the crash site, including the mangled remains of its wings and passenger seats.Rescue workers were rushed there after the crash, and tried to put out the raging fires that were sending thick black smoke into the sky.There were 15 foreigners on board, including five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one passenger each from Argentina, Australia, France and Ireland, Yeti spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula told AFP.The rest were Nepalis."Incredibly sad news out of Nepal of a plane crashing with many passengers on board," Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Monday, adding that his government was seeking information about the Australian national on board.- 'Like a bomb' –The ATR 72 was on a flight from the capital Kathmandu and plunged into the gorge between Pokhara's brand-new international airport and the old domestic one shortly before 11 am (0515 GMT) on Sunday."I was walking when I heard a loud blast, like a bomb went off," said witness Arun Tamu, 44, who was around 500 metres away and who livestreamed video of the blazing wreckage on social media."A few of us rushed to see if we can rescue anybody. I saw at least two women were breathing. The fire was getting very intense and it made it difficult for us to approach closer," the former soldier told AFP.It was unclear if anyone on the ground was injured."Our first thoughts are with all the individuals affected by this," the plane's France-based manufacturer ATR said in a statement on Sunday."ATR specialists are fully engaged to support both the investigation and the customer."Nepal's air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas, as well as ferrying foreign mountain climbers.But it has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance. The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.Nepal also has some of the world's most remote and trickiest runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge for even accomplished pilots.The weather is also notoriously capricious and hard to forecast, particularly in the mountains, where thick fog can suddenly obscure whole mountains from view.Nepal's deadliest aviation accident was in 1992, when all 167 people on a Pakistan International Airlines jet died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.
At least 67 people were confirmed dead Sunday when a plane with 72 on board crashed in Nepal, police said, in the Himalayan country's deadliest aviation disaster in three decades."Thirty-one (bodies) have been taken to hospitals," police official AK Chhetri told AFP, adding that 36 other bodies were still in the 300-metre (600-foot) gorge the aircraft plunged into.This was partially confirmed by the army, with a spokesman saying 29 bodies had been retrieved and that there were 33 more at the site in Pokhara in central Nepal.Rescue workers search through the wreckage of a plane"The aircraft crashed into a gorge so it is difficult to bring the bodies Search and rescue is ongoing. No survivors have been found yet," army spokesman Krishna Prasad Bhandari told AFP.One local official said that some survivors had been taken to hospital -- but this was not confirmed by either the airline Yeti Airlines or others.Yeti spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula told AFP that among those on board -- 68 passengers and four crew -- were 15 foreigners including five Indians, four Russians and two Koreans. The rest were Nepalis.The flight from Kathmandu slammed into the gorge and smashed to pieces between Pokhara's domestic and brand new international airport on Sunday shortly before 11:00 am (0515 GMT).A clip shared on social media appears to show a plane, believed to be the plane that crashed on Sunday in Nepal, flying low over a residential area before banking sharply to the left, followed by a loud explosion. After the crash, rescue workers were hosing down parts of the wreckage of the ATR 72 twin-engine turboprop while smoke drifted out of a ravine as hundreds of people watched.The area was strewn with what appeared to be parts of the aircraft, including seats.Footage shared on social media, which appeared to be shot just after the crash, showed raging flames on the ground and black smoke billowing into the sky from debris strewn across the crash site.AFP was unable to immediately verify the footage.Another unverified clip shared online showed a plane flying at a low altitude over a residential area banking sharply to the left, followed by a loud explosion.Pokhara's international airport, which opened on January 1 is meant to gradually replace the old one, established in 1958. The city is a gateway to religious pilgrims and international trekkers.Poor recordNepal's air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas as well as foreign trekkers and climbers.But it has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance.The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.The Himalayan country also has some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.Aircraft operators have said Nepal lacks infrastructure for accurate weather forecasts, especially in remote areas with challenging mountainous terrain where deadly crashes have taken place in the past.The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.In May 2022, all 22 people on board a plane operated by Nepali carrier Tara Air -- 16 Nepalis, four Indians and two Germans -- died when it crashed.Air traffic control lost contact with the twin-propeller Twin Otter shortly after it took off from Pokhara and headed for Jomsom, a popular trekking destination.Its wreckage was found a day later, strewn across a mountainside at around 14,500 feet (4,400 metres) above sea level.After that crash authorities tightened regulations, including that planes would only be cleared to fly only if there was favourable weather forecast throughout the route.In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crash-landed near Kathmandu's notoriously difficult international airport, killing 51 people.That accident was Nepal's deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.Just two months earlier, a Thai Airways aircraft had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.
An aircraft with 72 people on board crashed in Nepal on Sunday, Yeti Airlines and a local official said. 29 confirmed killed in Nepal plane crash."There are 68 passengers on board and four crew members... Rescue is underway, we don't know right now if there are survivors," the airline's spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula told AFP.He said the plane crashed between the old and new Pokhara airports in central Nepal.The wreckage was on fire and rescue workers were trying to put out the blaze, said local official Gurudutta Dhakal."Responders have already reached there and trying to douse the fire. All agencies are now focused on first dousing the fire and rescuing the passengers," Dhakal said.Nepal's air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas as well as foreign trekkers and climbers.But it has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance.The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.The Himalayan country also has some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.Aircraft operators say Nepal lacks infrastructure for accurate weather forecasts, especially in remote areas with challenging mountainous terrain where deadly crashes have taken place in the past.The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.In May 2022, all 22 people on board a plane operated by Nepali carrier Tara Air -- 16 Nepalis, four Indians and two Germans -- died when it crashed.Air traffic control lost contact with the twin-propeller Twin Otter shortly after it took off from Pokhara and headed for Jomsom, a popular trekking destination.Its wreckage was found a day later, strewn across a mountainside at an altitude of around 14,500 feet (4,400 metres).About 60 people were involved in the search mission, most of whom trekked uphill for miles to get there.After that crash authorities tightened regulations, including that planes would only be cleared to fly only if there was favourable weather forecast throughout the route.In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crash-landed near Kathmandu's notoriously difficult international airport, killing 51 people.That accident was Nepal's deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.Just two months earlier, a Thai Airways aircraft had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.
The body of top US ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson was retrieved from the Himalayas by a search team yesterday, two days after she disappeared on the slopes of Nepal’s Manaslu peak. Nelson slipped and went missing while skiing down the world’s eighth-highest mountain after a successful summit with her partner Jim Morrison on Monday. Morrison led the search operations and found her body yesterday morning, after landing at an elevation of around 6,700m on a helicopter. “I skied first and after a few turns Hilaree followed and started a small avalanche. She was swept off her feet and carried down a narrow snow slope down the south side (opposite from climbing route) of the mountain,” Morrison posted on his Instagram, describing what happened after their summit. Morrison was able to reach the base camp safely, but bad weather hampered the desperate search operation on Monday and Tuesday. “I’m in Kathmandu with her and her spirit. My loss is indescribable and I am focused on her children and their steps forward. @hilareenelson is the most inspiring person in life and now her energy will guide our collective souls,” he wrote. “I’m devastated by the loss of her.” Nelson, 49, is described by her sponsor, The North Face, as “the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation”. A decade ago, she became the first woman to summit both the highest mountain in the world, Everest, and the adjacent Lhotse peak within the span of 24 hours. She returned to Lhotse and made the first ski descent of the mountain in 2018, which earned her the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award. In an Instagram post last week, Nelson said her latest climb had been deeply challenging because of “incessant rain” and dangerous conditions. “I haven’t felt as sure-footed on Manaslu as I have on past adventure into the thin atmosphere of the high Himalaya,” Nelson wrote in a post on Thursday. “These past weeks have tested my resilience in new ways.” Mountaineers and well-wishers have shared heartfelt messages for Nelson since she went missing. “Let’s pray for Hilaree,” fellow The North Face athlete Fernanda Maciel, currently at the Manaslu base camp, wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. Mountain guide Caroline George thanked Nelson for inspiring her own adventures. “She is a beacon... I have infinite gratitude for her journey on this planet and for the legacy she leaves,” she wrote. Constant rain and snow have been a challenge for the 404 paying climbers attempting to reach the summit of Manaslu this year. On the same day as Nelson’s accident, an avalanche hit between Camps 3 and 4 on the 8,163m mountain, killing Nepali climber Anup Rai and injuring a dozen others who were later rescued. The deaths of Nelson and Rai are the first confirmed casualties of the autumn climbing season in Nepal. Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks and foreign climbers who flock to its mountains are a major source of revenue for the country. The industry was almost completely shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but the country reopened its peaks to mountaineers last year.
Nepali police have sought help from Interpol to locate the country's fugitive suspended national cricket captain, they said Tuesday. A Nepali court issued an arrest warrant for Sandeep Lamichhane earlier this month following an allegation of rape by a 17-year-old girl. But the leg-spinner is thought to have remained in the Caribbean where he was playing in a tournament. Interpol issued a "diffusion" notice against him on Sunday asking member countries for their co-operation locating him, Nepali police spokesperson Tek Prasad Rai told AFP. "We hope this will help the arrest of Lamichhane for the investigation of a rape complaint case against him," he said. Lamichhane had pledged on social media Sunday to return home "as soon as possible" to fight the accusation. Without revealing his whereabouts, the 22-year-old posted on Facebook that he was in "isolation" due to his mental and physical condition, saying the arrest warrant had "made me mentally disturbed". Lamichhane had been a poster boy for the rise of cricket in mountainous Nepal, which gained one-day international status in 2018. His big break came when he was snapped up by the Delhi Capitals for the money-spinning Indian Premier League in 2018, and he has since been Nepal's most sought-after cricketer. After the arrest warrant was issued he was suspended as captain of the national team and he pulled out of the Caribbean Premier League, where he was playing for the Jamaica Tallawahs. About 2,300 rape cases were reported in Nepal in the last fiscal year, according to police, but rights workers say many more assaults go unreported. Only a handful of women in Nepal spoke out during the #MeToo movement, and those accused have faced little or no repercussions over the allegations.
The death toll from landslides and floods caused by torrential rains in Nepal has risen to 22. Nepalese officials said landslides triggered by monsoon rains buried several homes in Achham district, about 450 km west of the capital Kathmandu, leaving five people dead, 10 injured, and two missing. Floods and landslides occur frequently in Nepal's mountainous terrain, especially during the annual monsoon rains between June and September. At least 70 people have died in flash floods and landslides so far this year.
Rescuers in Nepal battled against torrential rains to pull out bodies from the wreckage of homes buried by a landslide that caused 22 deaths and injured 10 people, officials said on Sunday. The latest calamity occurred in Achham district, about 450 km (281 miles) west of the capital city of Kathmandu. Flash floods and landslides are a common occurrence in the mountainous terrain of the Himalayan nation especially during the annual monsoon rains between June and September. At least 70 people have been killed and 13 went missing across the country in flash floods and landslides this year, according to official data. Volunteers, police and military rescuers were looking for people missing in Achham. In the neighbouring Kailali district, authorities recovered a body of a fisherman who had been swept away in the overflowing Geta river. Yagya Raj Joshi, an official in Kailali said about 1,500 people displaced because of the floods were sheltered in public buildings. Local media broadcasted images of swathes of farms inundated by flood waters, a destroyed suspension bridge and villagers wading through chest deep water.
Nepali rescuers have retrieved all 22 bodies from a plane that crashed in the Himalayas, authorities said Tuesday. Air traffic control lost contact with the Twin Otter shortly after it took off from Pokhara in western Nepal on Sunday morning and headed for Jomsom, a popular trekking destination. Its wreckage was found a day later, strewn across a mountainside at an altitude of around 14,500 feet (4,400 metres). "All 22 bodies have been carried to Kathmandu by Nepal Army's (Mi-17) helicopter," Tribhuvan International Airport spokesman Teknath Sitoula told AFP. "After postmortem, they will hand over the dead bodies to their family members." About 60 people were involved in the search mission, including the army, police, mountain guides and locals, most of whom trekked uphill for miles to get there. Many spent the night camped at the high-altitude site. The chief of Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority, Pradeep Adhikari, said the government had formed a committee to investigate the accident. "Our pilots fly in very challenging terrains and in unpredictable weather. We are looking into what can be done to minimise such accidents, especially in monsoon and pre-monsoon periods," Adhikari said. The cause of the crash is yet to be confirmed, but Pokhara Airport spokesman Dev Raj Subedi said on Monday that the aircraft, operated by Nepali carrier Tara Air, did not catch fire in the air. The flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder have also been recovered from the crash site, Sitoula said Tuesday. There were 16 Nepalis, four Indians and two Germans on the twin-prop aircraft. The Germans, in their 50s, were heading for a two-week trek in the remote Upper Mustang area with their Nepali guide. - Poor safety record - According to the Aviation Safety Network website, the aircraft was made by Canada's de Havilland and first flew more than 40 years ago. Its operator Tara Air is a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, a privately owned domestic carrier that services many remote destinations across Nepal. It suffered its last fatal accident in 2016 on the same route when a plane with 23 on board crashed into a mountainside. An investigation concluded that the crew repeatedly entered clouds and descended despite unfavourable weather conditions and warnings, and also deviated from their route. Nepal's air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas as well as foreign trekkers and climbers. But it has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance. The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns. The Himalayan country also has some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots. The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions. In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crash-landed near Kathmandu's notoriously difficult international airport, killing 51 people and seriously injuring 20. That accident was Nepal's deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu. Just two months earlier, a Thai Airways aircraft had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.
Nepali rescuers have retrieved the bodies of all 22 people from a plane that crashed in the Himalayas, authorities said Tuesday as they began identifying the victims. "All bodies have now been found," Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Deo Chandra Lal Karn told AFP. Air traffic control lost contact with the Twin Otter plane shortly after it took off from Pokhara in western Nepal on Sunday morning and headed for Jomsom, a popular trekking destination. The wreckage was found a day later strewn across a mountainside at around 14,500 feet (4,420 metres). Ten of the bodies were brought by helicopter to the capital Kathmandu on Monday with the remaining 12 still at the hard-to-reach crash site, with poor weather hampering the operation, officials said. About 60 people were involved in the search mission, including the army, police, mountain guides and locals, most of whom trekked uphill for miles to get there. Many spent the night camped at the high-altitude site. - On holiday - The cause of the crash has yet to be confirmed, but Pokhara Airport spokesman Dev Raj Subedi said on Monday that the aircraft operated by Nepali carrier Tara Air did not catch fire in the air. Four Indians and two Germans in their fifties were onboard the twin-prop aircraft, along with 16 Nepalis, including a computer engineer, his wife and their two daughters who had just returned from the United States. The four Indians were a divorced couple and their daughter and son, aged 15 and 22, on a family holiday. "There was a court order for (the father) to spend time with the family for 10 days every year, so they were taking a trip," Indian police official Uttam Sonawane told AFP. - Poor safety record - According to the Aviation Safety Network website, the aircraft was made by Canada's de Havilland and took its first flight more than 40 years ago. Tara Air is a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, a privately owned domestic carrier that services many remote destinations across Nepal. It suffered its last fatal accident in 2016 on the same route when a plane with 23 onboard crashed into a mountainside. Nepal's air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas as well as foreign trekkers and climbers. But it has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance. The European Union has banned all Nepali airlines from its airspace over safety concerns. The Himalayan country also has some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots. The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions. In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crash-landed near Kathmandu's notoriously difficult international airport, killing 51 people and seriously injuring 20. That accident was Nepal's deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu airport. Just two months earlier a Thai Airways aircraft had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.
Hopes were fading in Nepal on Monday of finding any survivors among the 22 people aboard a small plane that crashed into a Himalayan mountainside a day earlier, officials said, with just two people still to be accounted for. Two Germans, four Indians and 16 Nepalis were aboard the De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter aircraft which crashed 15 minutes after taking off from the tourist town of Pokhara, 125 km west of Kathmandu, on Sunday morning. "There is very little chance to find survivors," Deo Chandra Lal Karna, a spokesman for Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, said. This handout photograph taken on May 30, and released by the Nepal Police shows the wreckage of a Twin Otter aircraft, operated by Nepali carrier Tara Air, laying on a mountainside in Mustang, a day after it crashed. AFP Nepali soldiers and rescue workers had retrieved 20 bodies from the wreckage, strewn across a steep slope at an altitude of around 14,500 feet. The difficult terrain and poor weather had hampered the search parties. An image published in Nepali media showed uniformed rescue workers moving a body from the wreckage and using ropes to haul it on a stretcher up a steep, grassy ridge. A family member of one of the passengers on board the Twin Otter aircraft operated by Tara Air, weeps outside the airport in Pokhara. Prakash Mathema/AFP "There is very thick cloud in the area," Netra Prasad Sharma, the most senior bureaucrat in the Mustang district, where the crash took place, he told Reuters by phone. "The search for bodies is going on." The search and rescue team In Kathmandu, relatives of victims waited for the bodies to be brought back from the crash site, and aviation authority said in a tweet that formal identification of victims had yet to take place. "I am waiting for my son’s body," Maniram Pokhrel told Reuters, his voice choking. His son Utsav Pokhrel, 25, was the copilot. A search helicopter taking off A general view of the crash site Operated by privately owned Tara Air, the aircraft crashed in cloudy weather on Sunday morning and the wreckage wasn't spotted until Monday morning by Nepal's army. The destination was Jomsom, a popular tourist and pilgrimage site that lies about 80 km northwest of Pokhara - usually a 20-minute flight. But the aircraft lost contact with the Pokhara control tower five minutes before it was due to land, airline officials said. The crash site is close to Nepal's border with China, in region where Mount Dhaulagiri, the world's seventh highest peak at 8,167 metres, is located. Flight-tracking website Flightradar24 said the aircraft, with registration number 9N-AET, made its first flight 43 years ago. Air accidents are not uncommon in Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Everest, as weather can change suddenly, making airstrips in the mountains hazardous. In early 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines flight from Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed on landing and caught fire, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.
A small passenger plane with 22 people on board went missing in cloudy weather in Nepal yesterday and authorities suspended a search in difficult terrain as night fell. “The search operation has been suspended for today because of the darkness,” police spokesperson Bishnu Kumar K C told Reuters. “We could not make any progress. The search will resume early tomorrow.” Officials said bad weather and mountainous terrain had hampered their efforts to locate the plane, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter operated by privately owned Tara Air. The plane took off in the morning for a 20-minute flight but lost contact with the control tower five minutes before it was due to land, government officials said. The plane departed from the tourist town of Pokhara, 125km west of the capital, Kathmandu. It was headed for Jomsom, which is about 80km northwest of Pokhara and is a popular tourist and pilgrimage site. State-owned Nepal Television said villagers had seen an aircraft on fire at the source of the Lyanku Khola River at the foot of the Himalayan mountain Manapathi, in a district bordering Tibet. “Ground search teams are proceeding toward that direction,” Tara Air spokesperson Sudarshan Gartaula told Reuters, referring to the fire site. “It could be a fire by villagers or by cowherds. It could be anything.” The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) also said a team was headed to that area. The airline said the plane was carrying four Indians, two Germans and 16 Nepalis, including three crew. Flight-tracking website Flightradar24 said the missing aircraft, with registration number 9N-AET, made its first flight in April 1979. The weather office said there had been thick cloud cover in the Pokhara-Jomson area since the morning.
A small passenger plane operated by a private airline went missing in mountainous Nepal on Sunday with 22 people on board during cloudy weather, and officials said search teams had been sent to the site of a fire spotted by local residents. State-owned Nepal Television said villagers had seen an aircraft on fire at the source of the Lyanku Khola River at the foot of the Himalayan mountain Manapathi, in a district bordering Tibet. The plane took off in the morning for a 20-minute flight but lost contact with the control tower five minutes before it was due to land, government officials said. It was operated by Tara Air. Tara Air's DHC-6 Twin Otter, tail number 9N-AET, in Simikot, Nepal on December 1, 2021. Madhu Thapa/Handout via REUTERS "Ground search teams are proceeding toward that direction," Tara Air spokesperson Sudarshan Gartaula told Reuters, referring to the fire site. "It could be a fire by villagers or by cowherds. It could be anything." The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) also said a team was headed to that area. The airline said the plane was carrying four Indians, two Germans and 16 Nepalis, including three crew. The plane flew from the tourist town of Pokhara, some 125 km west of the capital, Kathmandu. It was headed for Jomsom, which is about 80 km northwest of Pokhara and is a popular tourist and pilgrimage site. Flight-tracking website Flightradar24 said the missing De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter aircraft with registration number 9N-AET made its first flight in April 1979. "One search helicopter returned to Jomsom due to bad weather without locating the plane," CAAN said in a statement. "Helicopters are ready to take off for search from Kathmandu, Pokhara and Jomsom once weather conditions improve. Army and police search teams have left towards the site." The weather office said there had been thick cloud cover in the Pokhara-Jomson area since the morning. Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Everest, has a record of air accidents. Its weather can change suddenly and airstrips are typically located in mountainous areas that are hard to reach. In early 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines flight from Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed on landing and caught fire, killing 51 of the 71 people on board. In 1992, all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it ploughed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.
A Russian climber has died on Mount Everest, officials said Sunday, in the second fatality on the world's highest peak this season. The man, who has not been named, died on Saturday after falling ill while acclimatising at a camp below the summit at 21,499 feet. "His body has been brought to the base camp and will be flown to Kathmandu once the weather improves," Bhisma Raj Dhungana, an official at Nepal's tourism department, told AFP. "Though the cause of the death is not known yet, it could be due to complications related to altitude sickness." The fatality was also confirmed by Mingma Gelu Sherpa of Seven Summits Treks, the agency that handled his expedition. It was the second death on the Nepal side of the 29,028-foot mountain this climbing season. Last month a Nepali climber, Ngimi Tenji Sherpa, who was carrying equipment uphill, was found dead on the mountain. Eleven Nepali climbers reached the summit on Saturday, the first of hundreds of climbers expected to scale the world's highest mountain from its southern approach in the coming weeks. Nepal has issued 316 permits to mountaineers including 17 Russians for this year's spring climbing season, which runs from mid-April to the end of May. On average, around five climbers die every year on the world's highest peak. But in 2019, 11 people died, with four of the deaths blamed on overcrowding that year.
Nearly 200 people have died in floods and landslides in India and Nepal, officials said yesterday, with whole families buried in their homes and two young girls swept away as forecasters warned of yet more heavy rain. Experts say that they were victims of the ever-more unpredictable and extreme weather that has hit South Asia in recent years caused by climate change and exacerbated by deforestation, damming and excessive development. The unusually late deluge of rain in the region saw Nepal record the sharpest rise in casualties overnight, with 88 people now dead, among them a family of six whose house was obliterated by an avalanche of soil and debris. “It doesn’t rain this time of the year,” said Nawaraj Kattel, 37, a local journalist who fled his flooded home in Morang in eastern Nepal. “There are about 100 families in our area, everyone fled. We are staying at my sister’s house but many don’t have shelters. Many have also lost their harvest,” he said. In the Himalayan northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, some parts of which recorded the most rain in more than a century, 55 people were confirmed to have died yesterday. They included five people from a single family whose house was buried by a massive landslide. Many bridges and roads have been damaged and many towns have been cut off, and the army has been brought in to restore contact and reach thousands of people stranded. Thousands were without power. In Kerala in southern India, where 42 people have died since last week, forecasters issued warnings of heavy rains in at least three districts in the state after a respite in recent days. The flooding in the state adjoining the Arabian Sea — which scientists say is warming — has revived memories of 2018, when nearly 500 people perished in the worst flooding there in a century. “We have seen death in the face. We are very lucky to be alive,” said Sasidharan, 72, who lost his ancestral house in a landslide and is now in a relief camp. “We have lost everything. The only things we could recover were some of our clothes. Identity documents, bank documents, property documents — we have lost everything,” he said. “We heard the sound of rocks falling and looked outside. I was really scared,” said his granddaughter Nandana, 11. “Our neighbours are gone. They were my friends. We used to play together.” Five people died in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, including two girls aged eight and 10 from the same family swept away as heavy rains pounded the hills of Darjeeling and other districts. “Mud, rocks and water tumbling down the hills of Darjeeling damaged nearly 400 houses and several thousand people were evacuated away from the swollen rivers on the foothills,” disaster management minister Javed Amhed Khan said. “Several hundred tourists are stranded in the hill resort of Darjeeling. Landslides blocked highways and roads in the region,” he said. The Met office issued a red alert for the state, warning that extremely heavy rainfall would continue in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Alipurdur. The Red Cross said its teams were helping with relief efforts in both countries and warning people living further downstream of further threats from rising floodwaters and landslides. “Crops and homes have been wiped out, which is a severe blow to families already grappling with the devastating fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said. “The people of Nepal and India are sandwiched between the pandemic and worsening climate disasters, heavily impacting millions of lives and livelihoods.”
When botany professor Bharat Babu Shrestha visited Nepal’s Chitwan National Park in 2013, feverfew – a flowering plant in the daisy family – was rare. Today, large areas of the park’s grasslands are covered in the invasive plant, said Shrestha, who teaches at Tribhuvan University on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Non-native plants have been spreading fast in Nepal’s oldest national park in recent years – and part of the reason is rising temperatures as fossil fuel use heats up the planet, said the expert in “invasion ecology”. “The changing climate appears to be conducive for invasive alien plants to grow faster,” Shrestha said. The surge in alien plants in Chitwan, a 950-sq-km park in Nepal’s southern plains, is now crowding out grasslands and wetlands that provide food and shelter for the park’s iconic wildlife, say park authorities. It’s a problem seen in parks and reserves around the world as climate change shifts what it means to “conserve” natural areas. “Like never before, the park faces habitat loss at an alarming rate,” said Ananath Baral, chief conservation officer at Chitwan. “We are concerned about the wildlife’s future.” In the past decade, the park’s grasslands have been heavily invaded by plants such as feverfew, lantana, a vine known as “mile-a-minute” weed – and Siam weed, considered one of the world’s most problematic invaders, Baral said. As a result, in some parts of the park, the grass favoured by the park’s wildlife – including the one-horned rhino, deer and antelope – has partially or totally disappeared, he said. Chitwan’s most recent grassland mapping, published in 2016, shows the area of the park and its buffer zone covered by grass has shrunk to 6%, down from 20% in 1973 when the reserve was established. Both rising temperatures and more erratic rainfall have allowed non-native plants to thrive, said Uttam Babu Shrestha, who has looked at invasive species in Chitwan as director of the Kathmandu-based Global Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies. With global temperatures predicted to keep climbing as the world struggles to curb use of fossil fuels, “plant invasion is likely to increase in the near future”, he warned. Like the grasslands, the park’s wetlands also are under stress: covered by plants that the local wildlife do not eat and squeezed by unprecedented floods and unpredictable droughts, biologists say. Babu Ram Lamichhane, head of the Biodiversity Conservation Center in Sauraha, at the gateway to Chitwan, said the combination of intense rain with flash floods in the monsoon season and prolonged dry spells in the spring are degrading Chitwan’s wetlands.
Nepal’s new Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba won a vote of confidence in parliament yesterday, days after the Supreme Court reinstated the legislature that was dissolved in May. The 75-year-old, who has held the office four times before, won 165 votes - exceeding the 136 required - with 83 votes against him, parliament speaker Agni Sapkota said. He faces the immediate task of procuring vaccines and controlling the spread of Covid-19, which the government says has infected 667,109 people and killed 9,550. Public health experts say an under-reporting of cases in the country means the figures could be higher. Fewer than 4% of the country’s 30mn people have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. More than 1.3mn people, who have had a first dose of a vaccine, are awaiting a second as the government scrambles to procure shots. “Combating Covid will be the first priority of the new government,” Deuba said in parliament. The new government has pledged to vaccinate a third of its people in the next three months and every Nepali by next April. Last Monday, the Supreme Court ordered Deuba be appointed premier in place of K P Sharma Oli. It ruled that Oli, who had been in power for three years, had breached the constitution by dissolving parliament. However Deuba still needed to win the confidence vote, under the constitution. Deuba, head of the centrist Nepali Congress party, will head a coalition with former Maoist rebels and a party representing a minority community dominant on Nepal’s southern plains. Oli, 69, says he had been unfairly removed by the court and has vowed to “go to the people” to explain his position.
Nepal’s Supreme Court yesterday reinstated its parliament, which was dissolved by caretaker Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in May, and ordered that his rival Sher Bahadur Deuba be appointed as prime minister. The move deals a major blow to Oli, who was unable to muster a majority in the House of Representatives and had sought to force a fresh election by dissolving parliament on May 22. Oli’s move had sparked a fresh constitutional crisis in the Himalayan nation and it marked his second attempt to dissolve parliament in recent months after an initial attempt in December 2020, following a split in his party, was reversed by the Supreme Court in February. After Nepal’s parliament had been reconstituted, Oli lost a confidence vote on May 10. Before his rivals could stake a claim however, he advised Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari to dissolve parliament, saying neither he nor opposition leader Deuba were able to muster a majority and form a new government. The opposition decried the move and vowed to challenge it. On Monday, Supreme Court official Debendra Dhakal said the court had ordered parliament be reconvened within seven days. It also ordered that Sher Bahadur Deuba be appointed as prime minister today. “The court has not left any room for political manoeuvring by the outgoing prime minister,” said Bipin Adhikari, a constitutional expert and analyst. Deuba, 75, a four-times former prime minister who heads the centrist Nepali Congress party, had attempted to form a new government after Oli failed to garner a majority among lawmakers. Nearly two dozen rebels from Oli’s Communist Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) party were expected to support Deuba at the time. “The court has saved democracy. Now five political parties will form a coalition government,” Deuba said. Oli was not immediately available for comment but his aide, Rajan Bhattarai, called the court’s move “a wrong political decision, which will have long term implications on the parliamentary democracy in our country”. But he added the court’s decision would be respected. Dozens of Oli’s supporters protested near the parliament building against the decision. Oli was elected in early 2018 as head of an alliance with the Maoist Centre, a group of former Maoist rebels, promising to end corruption and bring economic development to one of the world’s poorest countries. But some allies accused him of undermining colleagues and ignoring party decisions in making policies and key government appointments.
A ventilator ‘bank’ where hospitals can rent critical care machines for Covid-19 patients has given Nepal's cash-strapped healthcare system a much-needed lifeline. The Himalayan nation, like its South Asian neighbours, experienced a spike in infections in April and May with hospitals overwhelmed and medical supplies running low. As the infectious disease started to spread across the impoverished nation a year ago, Nepal only had 840 ventilators for a population of nearly 30 million, according to government data. Most of the ventilators -- needed to help severely ill Covid-19 patients breathe -- were in the capital Kathmandu, leaving regional and rural hospitals vulnerable. While daily infections have since declined from a peak of more than 9,000 cases in mid-May, authorities say hospitals remain under pressure. But Nepal Ventilator Services, a non-profit that has bought 85 of the machines through donations since the start of the pandemic last year, has helped to meet the surge in demand. ‘Nepal is chronically, insufficiently equipped with machines like ventilators,’ the group's co-founder, 42-year-old doctor Bishal Dhakal, told AFP. ‘It does not have even required numbers, which is about 2,000 to 3,000 machines for a 30-million population of Nepal.’ The heart surgeon turned general practitioner reached out to donors for funding in April last year and money poured in, allowing the organisation to buy 20 ventilators to rent out to hospitals at cost. Bhim Hospital in the country's south, which had one ventilator, loaned two from Dhakal's group in August for three months. ‘Our patients needed ventilators but we did not have enough budget to immediately buy any,’ the government hospital's medical superintendent, Shakuntala Gupta, told AFP. ‘The bureaucratic process for an approval is also long.’ - 'Rescued us' – Since then, the ventilators have been used for nearly 1,500 patients across the country. Hospitals are charged 3,000 rupees ($25) per day to cover maintenance and transportation costs. Karuna Hospital in Kathmandu, which has been renting eight ventilators since April this year, said the ‘bank’ was life-saving. ‘At the peak, almost every patient who was admitted in the ICU required ventilator support,’ the private hospital's chief executive, Ram Kumar Shrestha, told AFP. ‘If the ventilator 'bank' did not exist, the death rate would perhaps be beyond our imagination, not just here but in many places of Nepal.’ Laxmi Rokaya, 29, was struggling to breathe a week after she was infected in May. Her brother, Kunsang Magar, was unable to find a spare ventilator in Kathmandu until they reached Karuna. ‘They (Nepal Ventilator Services) rescued us. I don't know if we would have found a ventilator without them,’ Magar told AFP, adding that Rokaya was placed on a ventilator for two days and released from hospital just over a week later. Dhakal said all the organisation's 85 ventilators were loaned out during the peak. The country has reported nearly 630,000 infections and over 8,900 deaths so far. Even as the second wave wanes, officials are concerned the third is around the corner. Dhakal is working on increasing his ventilator stock and is training more people to operate the specialised equipment. ‘Hospitals can come to us for critical equipment that they might not need long-term,’ he added. ‘We (want)... to make sure the public has access to healthcare when in need.’
Flash floods triggered by heavy rains washed away a remote mountain camp in Bhutan on Wednesday killing 10 people and injuring five, while floods in neighbouring Nepal left seven people missing, authorities said. The Bhutan villagers, who had been collecting cordeyceps, a fungus used in medicine, were sleeping when the floodwaters hit just after midnight. Their camp near Laya, about 60 km (37 miles) north of the capital Thimphu, was washed away, local media reported. ‘Our hearts are with the people of Laya today, as we hear about the tragedy that struck a group of cordeycep collectors in the highland,’ Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said in a statement. Two helicopters were mobilised to evacuate the injured and rescuers from the armed forces were heading to the site which can only be reached after 11 hours of walking from the nearest road. Villagers in Bhutan and neighbouring Nepal go to high meadows every year to collect cordeycep which is believed to have potential health benefits. The villagers were camping by the side of a small stream between two small hills, The Bhutanese newspaper said. ‘It is believed they were washed away by the flood coming down the stream’, it said. In Nepal, Home Ministry official Dil Kumar Tamang said seven people were missing after overnight rains in Sindhupalchowk district, which borders the Tibet region of China, triggered flash floods in the Melamchi river inundating dozens of homes. ‘We are collecting details of losses,’ Tamang told Reuters. Witnesses said several people in Melamchi had moved to higher grounds with their belongings while army helicopters were rescuing those trapped in marooned houses. Authorities urged people living along the Narayani river, which flows into India as Gandak, to remain alert as the river was flowing above the danger mark. Nepal and Bhutan have been lashed by heavy rains in the last three days as the annual monsoon season beings.
A Nepali government official said on Monday that many foreign climbers were continuing their attempts to summit Mount Everest despite reports of a Covid-19 outbreak at the base camp of the world's tallest peak. In April, a Norwegian climber was evacuated from the base camp of the 8,848.86 metres (29,031.69 feet) mountain and flown to Kathmandu where he tested positive for Covid-19. He has since returned home. Lukas Furtenbach of the Austrian Furtenbach Adventures company, evacuated his team from the mountain this month saying there was a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases at the base camp. ‘So far we have about one hundred confirmed cases in Everest base camp, confirmed by doctors, by hospitals, by insurance companies, by expedition leaders, by helicopter pilots who are flying out the patients and of course by the climbers themselves,’ Furtenbach told Reuters TV in Kathmandu on Monday. But Mira Acharya, a director at the Department of Tourism that oversees climbing activities in Nepal's mountains, said the government had not received any notice of a Covid-19 outbreak at the Everest base camp and that expeditions were continuing through the climbing season that ends next week. When asked about the one hundred cases mentioned by Furtenbach, she said: ‘We have not received any report about that.’ ‘Even some climbers whose teams had stopped climbing are continuing their expeditions,’ she told Reuters without giving any names. ‘There is no panic among the climbers there,’ said Acharya, who visited base camp this month. ‘If there were a few cases they were managed in time and well.’ On Sunday, about 180 foreign climbers and their Sherpa guides reached the peak and more are expected to go up this week, she said. Nepal, which receives millions of dollars in income from climbers every year, issued 408 climbing permits for Everest for the April-May climbing season this year, after closing the peak last year due to the pandemic. On Sunday, Nepal reported 513,241 infections and 6,346 deaths since the outbreak began, according to government data.