Nepal plane crash: 23 bodies are recovered

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Family members of plane crash victims cry as they wait to receive their bodies in Kathmandu (25 February 2016)Image source, AP
Image caption,
Friends and family of those killed have to contend with a long wait for the bodies to be handed over to them

The bodies of 23 people killed in a plane crash in a remote area of Nepal have been found and are being returned to their families, the army says.

The recovery effort succeeded on Thursday after bad weather hampered earlier bids to reach the crash site.

It is about 3,900m (13,000ft) high and can only be reached on foot or by helicopter in good weather.

The black box of the aircraft operated by Tara Air has also been found, the Civil Aviation Authority says.

It will be handed over to a five-member investigation team formed by the government to look into the crash.

The Twin Otter flew into the mountainside shortly after taking off on a flight from Pokhara to Jomsom.

Most of those on board were Nepalis. The bodies are being returned to their families in Pokhara, Kathmandu and Jomsom.

Nepal's aviation industry has a poor safety record but it is not yet clear what caused Wednesday's crash.

The identities of those on board have yet to be released. Two of those on board the plane were children.

It was carrying three crew and 20 passengers, one of them Chinese and one Kuwaiti.

About 300 members of the security forces took part in the rescue operation, police told local media.

On Thursday afternoon they were able to take advantage of a significant improvement in the weather.

Police say the recovery effort was still tough however because some bodies were badly burned in the crash and were scattered across a wide area of the mountain.

The plane's wreckage was found near the village of Dana in Myagdi district, officials say.

It is about 100km (62 miles) from Pokhara.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The plane crashed in a remote area difficult for rescue teams to access

The flight was meant to take just under 20 minutes but an official told the BBC Nepali Service that the aircraft had lost contact with the control tower at Pokhara 10 minutes after take-off.

Tara Air said on its website that "the weather at both origin and destination airports was favourable".

Nepal's recent air crashes

March 2015: Lucky escape for passengers after plane skids off runway in fog in Kathmandu

February 2014: Bodies of all 18 people recovered after small plane crashes in western Nepal

September 2012: Plane heading for Everest region crashes on the outskirts of Kathmandu, killing all 19 on board

May 2012: Fifteen people die when plane carrying Indian pilgrims crashes in northern Nepal

September 2010: Sight-seeing flight crashes into a hillside near Kathmandu

September 2006: All 24 people on board a WWF helicopter die when it crashes in eastern Nepal

Pokhara is a resort town some 200km (125 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu. Jomsom, a short distance further north, is the starting point for many people trekking in the Himalayas.

Nepal's limited road network means that many areas are accessible only on foot or by air.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Tara Air uses Twin Otters and other planes on its routes in Nepal (file photo)

Since 1949, the year the first aircraft landed in Nepal, there have been more than 70 crashes involving planes and helicopters, in which more than 700 people have been killed.

Most accidents have been attributed to bad weather, inexperienced pilots and inadequate maintenance.

In 2013, the European Union banned all Nepalese airlines from flying to its territory for safety reasons.