Kathmandu, Nepal – Rescue teams have recovered 68 bodies after a Yeti Airlines passenger plane crashed with 72 people on board near Pokhara, Nepal, as search efforts ended for the day.
Authorities said the grim process of identifying the dead was under way, hours after the plane went down in the Seti River Gorge as it travelled from Kathmandu to its destination Pokhara on Sunday.
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“The process of identifying the bodies has begun,” Tek Prasad Rai, a spokesperson for the Nepal Police, told Al Jazeera. “The rescue operation is going on and we, along with our team, have gathered the bodies”.
No survivors had been found as of late Sunday, with officials saying the search for the four missing people would resume on Monday.
According to details released by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), 53 of the passengers, as well as the four flight staff on board, were Nepali. The foreigners on board included five Indians, four Russians, two Koreans, one Irish person, one Australian, one Argentinian and one French traveller.
The bodies have been taken to Gandaki Hospital for post-mortem identification. Yeti Airlines has said it will transfer the bodies to families following the identification process.
“All the bodies are now in Pokhara. After identification we will transport the bodies to convenient locations for the families and handover,” Pemba Sherpa, marketing manager at Yeti Airlines, told Al Jazeera.
“We have also circulated the information to embassies in the case of foreign casualties,” he added.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash. The government launched a committee to investigate the incident and declared Monday a public holiday to mourn the loss.
Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal tweeted: “I am deeply saddened by the sad and tragic accident of Yeti Airlines ANC ATR 72 which was flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara with passengers.”
“I sincerely appeal to the security personnel, all agencies of the Nepal government and the general public to start an effective rescue,” he added.
Officials told Al Jazeera that the rescue operation saw some difficulties due to the presence of a big crowd at the crash site. The rescue teams have urged those gathered to leave the site.
Nepal’s airline sector has been plagued by accidents over the years. In May 2022, a Tara Air plane crashed less than 20 minutes after taking off from Pokhara, killing 22 people onboard.
In March 2018, a flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh crash-landed at Kathmandu airport, killing 51 people.