49 dead as US-Bangla aircraft crashes in Kathmandu

Muktadir Rashid and Ahmed Shatil Alam | Published: 01:50, Mar 12,2018 | Updated: 01:52, Mar 13,2018


Nepalese rescuers work after a passenger plane from Bangladesh crashes at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Monday. — AP photo

At least 49 people were killed as a US-Bangla Airlines aircraft carrying 67 passengers and 4 crewmembers crashed and caught fire after it landed at Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepalese capital Kathmandu Monday afternoon.
According to the Nepalese hospital authorities, 49 bodies were recovered while the Bangladesh foreign ministry stated 22 others were taken to hospitals.
Of the passengers and crew, 36 were from Bangladesh, 33 from Nepal and 1 each from China and Maldives, according to a Bangladesh foreign ministry release.
State minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam stated at about 10:30pm on his Facebook page that of the 36 Bangladeshis, 25 died while 10 others were admitted to Kathmandu Medical College or Om Hospital.
One could not be reached, he said, adding that Bangladesh officials in Nepal already visited the injured.
Of the Bangladeshi deceased, Umme Salma and Nazia Afrin Chowdhury were senior assistant chiefs at Planning Commission, their colleagues said.
National Human Rights Commission in a statement confirmed the identities of rights activist Md Rafiquz Zaman, his wife Sanzida Huque Bipasha and their child Aniruddha Zaman, among the deceased.
Two more deceased were identified as software engineer Md Rokibul Hasan and Boshakhi Television journalist Foysal Ahmed by their colleagues.
Another deceased was identified as Alifuzzaman, a government contractor, by his friends.
Detail identities of Bangladeshi deceased Eakub Ali, Almun Nahar Annie, Bilkis Ara, Begum Hurun Nahar Bilquis Banu, Akhtara Begum, Md Hasan Imam, Mohammad Nazrul Islam, Akhi Moni, Meenhaz Bin Nasir, FH Priok, child Tamarra Prionmoyee, Md Motiur Rahman, SM Mahmudur Rahman, Tahira Tanvin Shashi Reza, Pias Roy, Sheikh Rashed Rubayet and Md Nuruz Zaman could not be established till submission of this report.
Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology associate professor Emrana Kabir Hashi, and Shahreen Ahmed, Md Shahin Bepari, Basanta Bohora, Md Rezwanul Haque, Mehedi Hasan, Md Kabir Hossain and Saiyada Kamrunnahar Shwarna were admitted to Kathmandu hospitals, according to Bangladesh mission in Nepal.
The pilot Abid Sultan was admitted to Norvic Hospital and his co-pilot Prithula Rashid and crew Khawja Hussain died. The condition of crew KHM Shafey was not confirmed.
Detail identities of other nationals were not confirmed but New Age correspondent in Sylhet reported that 13 out of 33 Nepalese –Sanjay Poudel, Sanjaya Maharjan, Neega Maharjan, Anjila Shrestha, Purnima Lohani, Sweta Thapa, Meeli Maharjan, Saruna Shrestha, Algina Baral, Charu Baral, Samira Byanjankar, Ashna Shakya and Princy Dhami— were students of Jalalabad Ragib-Rabeya Medical College in Sylhet.
The condition of three of them were stated to be critical while two were taken to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Nepal, said Mytrayee Dev Roy, a teacher of the medical college.
They were returning to Kathmunda from Bangladesh after finishing their final examinations, said the teacher.
The Kathmandu Post reported that Basanta Bohora, an employee of Raswita International Travels and Tours, one of the survivors, stated that 16 Nepalese from various travel agencies were onboard.
The families rushed to the airlines offices at Banani and Baridhara in Dhaka to know the whereabouts of the near and dear ones.
The Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh held an emergency meeting following the accident, but did not detail the number of dead and injured.
Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport officials said that the flight VS 211 took off at 12:50pm from Dhaka and landed Kathmandu at 2:33pm Nepalese time.
According to Kathmandu airport spokesperson Prem Nath Thakur, the 78-seater Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft caught fire after it careened around the runway during landing and crashed into a football ground near the airport.
Nepalese authorities engaged military in search and rescue operation alongside the fire service and the police.
Photo and video footage released following the crash showed the aircraft completely damaged, a number of bodies kept on nearby ground, and injured being rushed to hospital.
The reason behind the accident was not confirmed and the Bangladesh civil aviation and tourism
minister AKM Shajahan Kamal told reporters that the black box was recovered and details would be known.
US-Bangla Airlines chief executive officer Imran Asif blamed air traffic controllers at Kathmandu airport for the plane crash saying that they gave ‘wrong signals.’
A 25-minute conversation between the pilot and air traffic control at Kathmandu went viral. It indicated that the pilot was having trouble with landing.
Imran also said that the captain was a very skilled pilot.
Associated Press reported from Kathmandu quoting top airport official who said that the pilot of plane did not follow landing instructions from the control tower, and had approached the airport’s one runway from the wrong direction.
‘The airplane was not properly aligned with the runway. The tower repeatedly asked if the pilot was OK and the reply was “yes”,’ said Raj Kumar Chetri, the airport’s general manager.
But a recording of the conversations between the pilot and air traffic controllers indicated confusion over which direction the plane should land.
In the recording, posted by the air traffic monitoring website liveatc.net, conversation veers repeatedly about whether the pilot should land on the airport’s single runway from the south or the north.
Just before landing the pilot asks ‘Are we cleared to land?’
Moments later, the controller comes back on, using a tone rarely heard in such conversations — perhaps even panic — and tells the pilot, ‘I say again, turn!’
Seconds later, the controller orders firetrucks onto the runway.
One Bishwajit Ghosh complained to the Facebook post of state minister that the pilot had submitted his resignation letter to the company Sunday night.
Imran said that it was false.
The plane was not having any problem and never fell into any technical error, he said replying to a press query.
He also said that they would bring back all the dead and alive passengers.
After the emergency meeting in the evening, the civil aviation minister said at the civil aviation headquarters that a small team led by him was likely to visit Kathmandu today.
The ministry’s spokesperson Mahbubur Rahman Tuhin said a two-member team already flew to Nepal.
Kathmandu Post reported that the director general of civil aviation authority of Nepal Sanjiv Gautam said that the plane was out of control when it attempted to land on the runway.
‘The aircraft was permitted to land from the Southern side of the runway over Koteshwor but it landed from the Northern side,’ said Gautam suspecting that the aircraft might have sustained some technical glitches. ‘We are yet to ascertain the reason behind the unusual landing,’ he added.
Nepalese prime minister KP Sharma Oli, after visiting the crash site to take stock of the situation, said that the Nepal government would immediately form a commission to look into the plane crash.
He said that the government would make necessary arrangement for the rescue and other related tasks.
Following the accident, Ragib-Rabeya Medical College suspended all academic activities including examination for today.
Curtailing her tour, prime minister Sheikh Hasina, now in Singapore on a four-day official visit, would return home today due to the plane crash.
She had a telephone conversation with her Nepal counterpart Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli and assured him of all supports.
President Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina expressed profound shock and sorrow at the tragic deaths in the plane crash.
Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus expressed deep shock at the loss of lives.
Different political parties, socio-cultural groups and professional bodies also mourned the tragic incident. 

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