Nepal finds all however one lacking individual after lethal airplane crash

KATHMANDU, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Rescuers used drones and abseiled into a deep gorge on Tuesday to search for the last missing person from Nepal’s worst air disaster in 30 years, which killed at least 71 people, including young children .

Difficult terrain around the 200-meter (650-foot) gorge and poor weather hampered rescue efforts near the tourist town of Pokhara, where Yeti Airlines’ turboprop ATR 72 crashed with 72 people on Sunday just before landing.

The search was called off after dark and will resume on Wednesday, said Tek Bahadur KC, a senior county official.

Rescue teams struggled to identify bodies, Ajay KC, a Pokhara police officer who is part of the rescue effort, told Reuters.

“It’s thick fog here now. We are sending search and rescue personnel with ropes into the ravine where parts of the plane fell and were on fire,” he said before the search was suspended for the night.

Rescuers had collected human remains and sent them for DNA testing, he said, but search efforts would continue until all 72 passengers and crew were identified.

“Among the passengers were small children,” KC said.

Search teams found 68 bodies on the day of the crash, while two bodies were recovered Monday before the search was called off.

Another body was recovered late Tuesday afternoon, said Prakash Pokhrel, an official coordinator of the rescue operation at Kathmandu Airport.

An airport official said Tuesday 48 bodies were taken to the capital Kathmandu and taken to a hospital for autopsy, while 22 bodies were handed over to families in Pokhara.

Medical staff in personal protective equipment and masks helped move bodies from stretchers to a vehicle before they were flown to Kathmandu.

Television footage showed crying relatives waiting for the bodies of their loved ones outside a hospital in Pokhara.

“We have lost so many precious lives and it happens all the time in Nepal,” said Ram Bahadur KC, uncle of Captain Kamal KC. “This is an irreparable loss.”

Tulsi Kandel, who works at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, said it could take up to a week for the autopsies to be completed.

On Monday, searchers found the flight’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, both in good condition, a discovery that will likely help investigators determine the cause of the crash.

Reuters graphics

According to international aviation regulations, the accident investigation authorities of the countries where the aircraft and engines were designed and built are automatically involved in the investigation.

ATR is based in France and the aircraft’s engines were manufactured in Canada by Pratt & Whitney Canada (RTX.N).

French and Canadian air accident investigators have announced they will take part in the investigation.

Reporting by Gopal Sharma, Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Edited by Jamie Freed, Jacqueline Wong, Vin Shahrestani

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