Bangladeshi plane bursts into flames, killing at least 50 pas­sen­gers


KATHMANDU: A Bangladeshi air­liner crashed on Mon­day af­ter mak­ing an un­ex­pected turn in cloudy weather as it came in to land at the air­port in Nepal’s cap­i­tal, killing at least 50 peo­ple, of­fi­cials said.

There were 71 peo­ple on board the US-Bangla Air­lines plane ar­riv­ing from Dhaka when it clipped the fence at Kat­mandu and burst into flames, said Raj Ku­mar Chet­tri, the gen­eral man­ager of the hill-ringed air­port.

Those aboard in­cluded 33 Nepali pas­sen­gers, with 32 from Bangladesh, one from China and one from the Mal­dives. nine peo­ple were still un­ac­counted for, he added.

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 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 “May­day” call, or dis­tress sig­nal.

Many of the bod­ies that lay on the tar­mac, cov­ered with cloth, were charred, wit­nesses said. Thick plumes of smoke could be seen from the air­craft at the Trib­hu­van In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

The air­craft that went down on Mon­day was 17 years old, data from track­ing web­site showed. It de­scended to an air­port al­ti­tude of 4,400 feet (1,341 m) and then climbed to 6,600 feet (2,012 m) be­fore crash­ing about two min­utes later, the web­site said.

Bom­bardier said on Twit­ter it was sad­dened by the ac­ci­dent.

“Our thoughts are with those in­jured, and their fam­i­lies,” it said. “More in­for­ma­tion to fol­low.”

There have been a se­ries of ac­ci­dents at Kat­mandu in the past.

In March 2014, a flock of birds shat­tered the wind­shield of a Malaysia Air­lines jet as it landed in Kat­mandu.

The same month, a rear wheel of an Air­bus A320 op­er­ated by an In­dian bud­get air­line caught fire af­ter land­ing.

A cock­pit of a crashed US-Bangla air­plane lies on the crash site at the Trib­hu­van In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Kathmandu on Mon­day.(Reuters)

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