The Pokhara International Airport, which witnessed the fatal crash of a Nepalese passenger plane with 72 people onboard on Sunday, was inaugurated two weeks ago by Nepal’s newly-appointed Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and built with Chinese assistance.
IMAGE: A passenger plane of Yeti Airlines’ after it crashed into a gorge while landing at the Pokhara airport, Nepal, January 15, 2023. Photograph: PTI Photo
Built in the backdrop of the pristine Annapurna Mountain Range, the airport was officially inaugurated on January 1, 2023.
The flagship project was part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative cooperation.
The Nepal government signed a $215.96 million soft loan agreement with China in March 2016 for the construction of the airport in this tourist hub, according to Kathmandu Post newspaper.
Last year, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi handed over the Pokhara Regional International Airport to the then Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, during a courtesy call held at Baluwatar.
Speaking at the airport’s inauguration ceremony, Prachanda said aerial connectivity is the most effective means of connectivity for a landlocked country like Nepal.
“With the opening of this airport, Pokhara’s relationship with the international region has been established,” he said.
While landing at the Pokhara airport around 11 am on Sunday, the Yeti Airlines aircraft crashed on the bank of the Seti River between the old airport and the new airport.
There were a total of 68 passengers and four crew members.
Five Indians were among the passengers.
At least 32 bodies have been recovered from the wreckage site, The Himalayan Times newspaper reported.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the airplane had received permission to land, MyRepublica newspaper reported.
“Weather was not a problem, preliminary information has been received that the plane crashed due to technical reasons. Information has been received that flames were seen in the plane while it was still air-borne,” Gyanendra Bhul, information officer at CANN, was quoted as saying in the report.
“The plane would have reached the runway in 10 seconds. However, it met with an accident mid-way,” the airport’s air traffic controller told MyRepublica newspaper.
The Nepal government on Sunday formed a five-member commission of inquiry to probe the plane crash.