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Small tourist plane crashes in Nepal, 19 dead

Sep 24, 2011, 10:24 p.m.
A Buddha Air Beechcraft 1900D aircraft prepares to take off early morning at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport in this April 24, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Tim Chong/Files

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A small plane carrying foreign tourists to view Mount Everest crashed in bad weather near Nepal's capital Kathmandu on Sunday, killing all 19 people on board, officials said.

Kathmandu Airport officials said there were 16 passengers and a crew of three on board the plane. The cause of the crash was not known.

"We had rushed a survivor to the hospital but he died during the treatment. So we have all 19 people dead," police spokesman Binod Singh told Reuters.

The Beech aircraft owned by Buddha Air, a private airline, was flying to Kathmandu from a mountain flight to Everest.

"The plane was returning to Kathmandu from a mountain flight when it crashed," an official at the Kathmandu airport Rescue Coordination Center, who refused to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said.

The center is operated by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.

He said the plane had crashed at Kotdanda, about 5 km (3 miles) south of the Nepali capital.

There were 10 Indian and two American, one Japanese, three Nepali passengers and three Nepali crew members, he said.

Kathmandu and its surrounding hills were enveloped in late monsoon clouds early on Sunday.

The last plane crash in Nepal was in December last year, when a Twin Otter aircraft hit the Himalayan foothills of remote east Nepal, killing all 22 people onboard.

Nepal is home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountain peaks, including Mount Everest.

Tens of thousands of hikers and foreign tourists go to Mount Everest and other trekking routes to see the lofty Himalayan peaks every year.

Those who cannot hike the rugged hilly trails to the mountains use mountain flights operated by different airlines to see the Himalayas.

Tourism, a key source of earning for impoverished Nepal, accounts for nearly four percent of the gross domestic product and employs tens of thousands of people, among the poorest in the world.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

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