Black box in Nepal crash found, hopes of any survivors 'nil'
68 bodies were retrieved so far, with four remaining missing.
Nepali rescue workers resumed on Monday morning their operations in the search for more bodies from the wreckage of a plane with 72 people on board, with hopes of any survivors now "nil", according to officials.
The Yeti Airlines ATR 72 plummeted into a steep gorge, smashed into pieces, and burst into flames as it approached the central city of Pokhara on Sunday morning, in Nepal's worst aviation disaster since 1992.
The cause was not yet known, but a video on social media showed the aircraft banking suddenly and sharply to the left as it approached Pokhara airport. A loud explosion followed.
Video of what seems to be moments before the crash of Yeti Airlines :— kantipur (@kantipur) January 15, 2023
ATR72 carrying 72 passengers near
Pokhara Airport #aviation #nepal #yetiairlines #Nepal #nepalplanecrash #crash #atr72 #yeti #sadday #restinpeace #rip pic.twitter.com/y4a1rXUkpb
Kathmandu airport Spokesperson Sher Bahadur confirmed that rescuers have found flight data recorders of the ATR 72.
"The black box of the crashed plane has been found," Bahadur said, as quoted by Asian News International.
Nepal, which has a poor record on air safety, observed a day of mourning on Monday for the victims.
Soldiers used ropes and stretchers to retrieve bodies from the 300-meter (1,000-foot) deep gorge late into the night, with recovery efforts resuming on Monday.
"We have collected 68 bodies so far. We are searching for four more bodies. We should continue until we get the bodies," senior local official Tek Bahadur KC told AFP.
"We pray for a miracle. But, the hope of finding anyone alive is nil," he said.
Rescue workers had rushed to the site after the crash and tried to put out the raging fires that had sent thick black smoke into the sky.
There were 15 foreigners on board, including five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one passenger each from Argentina, Australia, France, and Ireland, Yeti Spokesperson Sudarshan Bartaula told AFP. The rest were Nepalis.
The ATR 72 was on a flight from the capital Kathmandu and plunged into the gorge between Pokhara's brand-new international airport and the old domestic one shortly before 11:00 am (0515 GMT) on Sunday.
"I was walking when I heard a loud blast, like a bomb went off," said witness Arun Tamu, 44, who was around 500 meters away and who live-streamed video of the blazing wreckage on social media.
"A few of us rushed to see if we can rescue anybody. I saw at least two women were breathing. The fire was getting very intense and it made it difficult for us to approach closer," he told AFP.
Following the crash, the plane's France-based manufacturer ATR said in a statement on Sunday that its specialists "are fully engaged to support both the investigation and the customer."
"Our first thoughts are with all the individuals affected by this," the statement read.
The Nepalese authorities have tasked a special commission with investigating the causes of the crash. A report is expected in 45 days.
Nepal's deadliest aviation accident took place in 1992 when all 167 people on a Pakistan International Airlines jet died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.