Nepal plane crash in bad weather killed all 18 on board

KATHMANDU Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:41am IST

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KATHMANDU (Reuters) - All 18 people aboard a small plane that crashed in bad weather in Nepal were killed, an army spokesman said on Monday, after searchers battled heavy rain and harsh winds to reach the rugged site the day after the event.

The crash highlights the poor safety record of Nepal, where more than a dozen airlines fly to nearly 50 airports, many in remote hills and mountains shrouded in cloud and cut off from roads.

All 15 passengers, among them a foreigner, and a crew of three were killed in Sunday's crash at Masine hill in the village of Dhikura, 200 km (125 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, officials said.

"All 18 dead bodies have been found," army spokesman Jagadish Pokharel told Reuters. One was an infant, and nine of the bodies were charred beyond recognition, police added.

There were no immediate further details from the remote area, authorities said.

Many parts of Nepal experienced rain this weekend, with snow covering some mountainous areas. The downpours and bad weather prevented search and rescue helicopters from reaching the area of the crash until Monday.

Officials said the plane, a Canadian-made Twin Otter on a flight from the resort town of Pokhara to Jumla in the far west, had broken into pieces, scattering the hillside.

The aircraft, owned by state-run Nepal Airlines Corp, featured in the country's first hijacking 40 years ago, when it was seized by activists of the Nepali Congress party during a struggle against the ruling monarchy, media reports said.

The monarchy was abolished in 2008 and the party chief, Sushil Koirala, a member of a noted political family who spent three years in jail in India over his involvement in the hijacking, is now Nepal's prime minister.

At least 97 people have died in six air crashes in Nepal since 2010, the worst occurring in September 2012, when 19 people died after a Dornier plane crashed in Kathmandu just after taking off for Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest, the world's highest peak.

In December the European Union blacklisted Nepali airlines and banned them from flying to the EU on safety grounds.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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