A plane carrying 72 people has crashed in Nepal, killing at least 68, officials have said.
Video on local media showed thick black smoke billowing from the crash site as rescue workers and crowds gathered around the wreckage of the aircraft.
Footage on social media showed the plane flying low before beginning to spin.
At least 68 bodies have been recovered from the crash site near Pokhara International Airport in the west of the country, the Nepal aviation authority said.
“We expect to recover more bodies,” army spokesman Krishna Bhandari said. “The plane has broken into pieces.”
The plane was carrying 68 passengers, including three infants, and four crew members, a spokesperson for the airline said.
Of the passengers, five were Indian, four Russian and two South Korean, while there was one passenger each from Ireland, Australia, France and Argentina.
‘Half the plane is on the hill – the other half is in the gorge’
Rescue workers were having difficulty reaching the crash site as it sits in a gorge between two hills, a police official said.
“Half of the plane is on the hillside,” Arun Tamu, a local resident, said. “The other half has fallen into the gorge of the Seti river.”
Khum Bahadur Chhetri said he “saw the plane trembling, moving left and right, and then suddenly its nose dived and it went into the gorge”.
He said residents took two passengers to a hospital.
The resort town of Pokhara, which is 125 miles (200km) west of the capital Kathmandu, is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular hiking trail in the Himalayas. Its airport began operations only two weeks ago.
Emergency cabinet meeting
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the prime minister, called an emergency cabinet meeting and urged security personnel and local people to help with rescue efforts.
The twin-engine ATR 72 operated by Yeti Airlines was en route from Kathmandu, an airport official said.
Yeti Airlines announced all regular flights tomorrow would be cancelled “in mourning for the passengers who lost their lives”.
The plane was 15 years old and equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
It was Nepal’s deadliest air crash since 1992, the Aviation Safety Network database showed.
History of plane disasters
Plane crashes are not uncommon in Nepal, which is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest, as the weather can change suddenly and make for hazardous conditions.
The European Union has banned Nepali airlines from its airspace since 2013 over safety concerns.
Last year 22 people died when a plane crashed on a mountainside.
In 2018 a US-Bangla passenger plane from Bangladesh crashed on landing in Kathmandu, killing 49 of the 71 people on board.
In 1992, all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it crashed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.