The plane, carrying 68 passengers and four crew members, crashed between the old and new Pokhara airports in Nepal, in the country's worst such incident in 30 years.

It remains unclear what caused the crash
It remains unclear what caused the crash (Bijay Neupane / Reuters)

Nepal began a national day of mourning, a day after a plane crashed while attempting to land at a newly opened airport, killing at least 68 of the 72 people aboard. 

It was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. 

The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.

It remains unclear what caused the crash.

On Monday, searchers found both the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.

The data on the recorders may help investigators determine what caused the ATR 72 aircraft to crash in clear weather just before landing in the tourist city of Pokhara.

Both recorders were in good shape and would be sent for analysis based on the recommendation of the manufacturer, Teknath Sitaula, an official at the Kathmandu airport, told Reuters news agency.

Search resumes

Pokhara police official Ajay K.C. said the search-and-rescue operation, which stopped because of darkness on Sunday, had resumed.

"We will take out the five bodies from the gorge and search for the remaining four that are still missing,” he told Reuters. "It is cloudy now... causing a problem in the search."

Gyan Khakda, a police spokesperson in the district, said 31 bodies have been identified and will be handed over to family after officials finish post mortem reports.

The bodies of foreigners and those that are unrecognisable will be sent to Kathmandu for further investigation.

A witness who recorded footage of the plane’s descent from his balcony said he saw the plane flying low before it suddenly veered to its left.

“I saw that and I was shocked… I thought that today everything will be finished here after it crashes, I will also be dead,” said Diwas Bohora. 

After it crashed, red flames erupted and the ground shook violently, like an earthquake, Bohora said.

“I was scared. Seeing that scene, I was scared.”

Another witness said he saw the aircraft spinning violently in the air after it began descending to land, watching from the terrace of his house. 

Pokhara is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular hiking trail in the Himalayas. The city’s new international airport began operations only two weeks ago.

Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, has a history of air crashes. According to the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety database, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.

Source: AFP