Plane crash in northern Nepal kills 15 people

Media caption,
The BBC's Surendra Phuyal: ''The six survivors who miraculously survived have been rescued''

A plane carrying 21 people has crashed while trying to land at an airport in the north of Nepal, leaving 15 dead.

Police say that six survivors are being treated at a hospital in the city of Pokhara. Many of the dead and injured are Indian nationals.

The Agni Air plane hit a hillside as it tried to land at Jomsom airport, a hub for trekkers and religious pilgrims.

Aviation accidents involving small aircraft are not uncommon in mountainous Nepal.

The Dornier aircraft was carrying 18 passengers and three crew members, and had been travelling to Jomsom from the city of Pokhara.

Officials say they are investigating the cause of the crash, which happened soon after the pilot abandoned efforts to land at Jomsom because of strong winds and was about to fly back to Pokhara.

Thirteen Indian passengers and two Nepali pilots were killed in the crash, Jomsom police official Basanta Ranjit said.

Officials say that the plane broke into pieces after hitting the ground but did not catch fire.

'Thrown around'

Two Danes on the aircraft - Emilie Joergensen and Andreas Rasch - survived the crash.

"We were thrown around. The seats were unfastened and we were squeezed between seats and bodies," Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet quoted Ms Joergensen as saying.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Aviation accidents involving small aircraft are not uncommon in mountainous Nepal

"I think it was easy for us to get out because we sat in the back and were closest to the exit," she said.

Rescue workers are at the crash site and police say the six injured being treated at Pokhara's Manipal hospital include an air stewardess, the two Danes and three Indians, two of them infants.

Aviation officials said helicopters have been despatched to bring the bodies of those killed to mortuaries.

The Indian passengers were said to be flying to visit the sacred Muktinath temple, which is close to Jomsom - 200km (125 miles) north-west of Kathmandu - and a popular destination for trekkers and Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.

Nepalese Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna both expressed their condolences over the deaths.

The plane crashed at about 09:45 local time (04:00 GMT), reportedly as it was turning to land at the airport.

"It hit a muddy slope and the plane is now buried in the side of the hill," police spokesman Binod Singh told the AFP news agency.

Nepal's treacherous mountainous terrain coupled with adverse weather conditions poses a formidable challenge to pilots.

But police say the weather in the area was fine at the time of the crash so investigators are considering possible technical faults.

Last year 19 people were killed when a plane carrying tourists to view Mount Everest crashed outside Kathmandu.

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