'No survivors' from plane crash in Nepal

2011-10-19 13:23

Kathmandu - The chance of finding any survivors from a military plane crash in a remote hunting reserve in mid-western Nepal is nil, the Nepal army said on Wednesday after recovering four bodies.

The Britten-Norman Islander plane with six Nepalese nationals on board was returning to the capital Kathmandu from a rescue mission at the Indian border when it lost contact with the ground on Tuesday.

"The plane has scattered into pieces in a dense forest at a gorge-like area in the remote hill," said Uma Prasad Chaturbedi, the deputy superintendent of the local police force.

"This morning, the rescuers retrieved four dead bodies. Three of them have been badly damaged, hence it is hard to identify their gender.

"One badly burned body has been identified as male. The bodies were scattered within 50 to 60m from the crash site. Though the rescue team hasn't found the remaining two, chances of their survival is nil."

Witnesses had reported hearing an explosion before seeing the aircraft crash into the side of a hill in dense jungle and burst into a fireball.

Chaturbedi said dense fog, snow and extreme cold was hampering the rescue effort.

"An army helicopter, sent to bring the bodies [back], hasn't been able to land. The place is very remote and is blanketed by heavy fog," he said.

"The wreckage of the aircraft was scattered as far as 100m from the site."

The army lost contact with the plane at 13:20 GMT, after it had taken off from the city of Nepalgunj in southwestern Nepal, and was seen coming down in the Dhorpatan hunting reserve, a five-day trek from the central city of Pokhara.

The crew included a doctor, a medical assistant, a patient, his brother and two army pilots.

Nepal has no air force but flies several aircraft within the Nepalese Army Service, also known as the Nepal Army Air Wing.

The Islander aircraft, normally used for surveillance missions, was donated to Nepal during the 1996-2006 Maoist rebellion by the United Kingdom.

Aviation accidents are relatively common in the landlocked Himalayan country, which has only a limited road network, with many communities in the mountains and hills accessible only on foot or by air.