Nepal plane crash: Officials confirm 18 killed

A Nepalese man consoles a relative, center, of a missing passenger Relatives of the passengers gathered at Kathmandu's domestic airport, where the plane began its journey

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The bodies of all 18 people on board a small plane that crashed on a hill in western Nepal have been recovered, officials say.

The bodies have been taken to the capital, Kathmandu.

Contact with the Nepal Airlines plane, which was carrying mostly Nepali passengers and crew as well as one Dane, was lost after it took off from the resort town of Pokhara on Sunday.

The wreckage was located on Monday in the western district of Arghakhanchi.

Bimlesh Lal Karna, from Nepal's civil aviation authority, said the crash site was on a hill called Masinelek in Arghakhanchi, where it was difficult for emergency services to land because of the difficult terrain.

"It was very difficult for the rescue helicopters to land there. But they finally did," he said.

"All the 18 bodies have been brought to Kathmandu; they will be handed over to the family members after the post-mortem."

Nepal airlines blames the crash on bad weather.

An airline spokesman said engineers had refurbished the plane in recent weeks, leaving it in "good condition".

"When the plane took off from Pokhara airport, the weather condition was fine... but unfortunately the weather condition en route to the destination worsened," he said.

Blacklist

Contact with the Canadian-made Twin Otter plane was lost a few minutes after it took off at 12:40 local time (06:55 GMT) from Pokhara, bound for Jumla, around 360km (220 miles) west of Kathmandu.

Map

Fifteen passengers - reportedly including a child - and three crew members were on board the aircraft, which had started its journey in Kathmandu and stopped in Pokhara to refuel.

Critics say many passenger aircraft in Nepal are poorly maintained.

In December, the EU put all of Nepal's airlines on a blacklist and banned them from flying to the EU on safety grounds.

In Nepal, 13 private airlines fly to nearly 50 airports, many of them in difficult locations, surrounded by mountains, cloudy weather and with no road access.

In September 2012, a plane operated by Nepal's Sita Air crashed near Kathmandu airport, killing 19 people.

In May of that year, 15 people died when an Agni Air plane carrying Indian pilgrims to a Hindu religious site in northern Nepal crashed at a high-altitude airport.

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

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