13 Indians die as plane crashes into Nepal cliff
Kathmandu, May 14 (IANS) Thirteen Indians were among the 15 people killed when their small aircraft dashed into a cliff in western Nepal Monday, less than seven months after 10 Indian tourists were killed in an air crash. Three of the six survivors were Indians.
The Agni Air 20-seater plane, carrying 16 Indians and two Danish passengers as well as three crew members, crashed in Jomsom, known for its magnificent mountain views and the starting point for major trekking routes, at about 9.45 a.m. Monday.
The Indian Embassy here said that of the 18 passengers, 16 were Indians.
'Six people have been rescued alive from the crash out of which three are Indian nationals. These include Tirumala Kidambi Sreekanth, Tirumala Kidambi Sreevardhini (9) and Tirumala Kidambi Sreepada (6), who are currently undergoing treatment at Manipal Hospital, Pokhara. The other 13 Indians are feared to be dead,' it said in a press release.
Laxmi Raj Sharma, a district official, said that 15 bodies had been recovered.
Pilot Prabhu Sharan Pathak and co-pilot J.D. Maharjan were among the dead. The other victims are Indians who were on a pilgrimage to the famous Muktinath temple, sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists.
According to myrepublica.com., the Indians killed in the crash were K. Mamanya, S.K. Arora, M. Handa, M. Arora, R. Handa, K. Arora, T. Sachdev, G. Sachdev, Sanaim Sudhar, G. Raman, and Latha Echambade. Also dead were two passengers identified only as Mr. Kumar and Mrs. Kumar.
A photograph showed one of the Danish nationals being helped by two security personnel and the airhostess being carried on a stretcher.
The plane was flying from Pokhara, a major tourist destination, to Jomsom, a distance of about 60 km.
The Jomsom airport, with the airstrip carved out of the mountain, is about 200 km northwest of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. The pilot, experts said, have to manoeuvre skillfully to land the plane in the treacherous mountain area.
The plane had taken off from Pokhara airport at 9.30 a.m. and crashed 15 minutes later on a cliff, while it was about to return to Pokhara following a technical glitch, Yogendra Kunwar, assistant manager at the traffic control room in Pokhara airport, was quoted as saying.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Gynanedra Singh Bhandari said the plane crashed behind the army barracks, enabling a quick rescue operation.
He also said that police and army were conducting rescue operations along with stand-by flights to carry the injured.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai expressed sorrow over the death of 15 people in the crash and hoped for early recovery of the injured.
India's External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said that he was 'deeply saddened to hear about the tragic air crash that occurred earlier this morning (Monday) near Jomsong airport in Nepal'.
'I would like to convey my deep condolences to the families of all those who have lost their lives in this accident.
'Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all those who have lost their near and dear ones. I hope that the Almighty will grant them strength to bear their loss with fortitude,' Krishna added.
The crash took place in Jomsom which is the capital and administration headquarters of Mustang district, which stretches from the Tibetan border to Ghasa along the Kali Gandaki river.
The tragedy was a reminder of the Sep 25, 2011 crash in which all 19 people, mostly Indian tourists, were killed after a small plane carrying them crashed close to capital city Kathmandu.
Agni Air, which began operations March 16, 2006 with one Dornier Do-228 aircraft, is now operating six aircraft, three Dornier-228 Aircrafts built in German and three Jetstream-41 built in Britain to various domestic sectors, its website said.
It flies to the popular tourist destinations such as Lukla, Tumlingtar, Biratnagar, Bhadrapur, Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Jomsom.
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