At least 50 people were reportedly killed Monday after a passenger plane crash on its approach to the mountainous airport of Kathmandu.
Operated by US-Bangla Airlines, the plane was flying from from Dhaka to Tribhuvan International Airport, carrying 71 passengers and crew. An army spokesperson put the death count at 50 so far, according to Reuters and the Associated Press.
Raj Kumar Chettri, the general manager of the airport, said the plane burst into flames after it clipped a fence on its final approach.
The plane skidded off the runway and crashed into a nearby football field, the Kathmandu Post reports.
“The aircraft was permitted to land from the Southern side of the runway over Koteshwor but it landed from the Northern side,” Director General of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) Sanjiv Gautam said, suspecting the aircraft might have suffered a technical glitches during its flight. “We are yet to ascertain the reason behind the unusual landing.”
Data from flight-tracking website Flightradar24.com showed the 17-year-old aircraft descended to an airport altitude of 4,400 feet before ascended again to 6,600 feet. The plane crashed two minutes later, after swerving repeatedly as it prepared to land, a witness said.
“It was flying so low I thought it was going to run into the mountains,” Amanda Summers, an American working in Nepal, told AP. “All of a sudden there was a blast and then another blast.”
Pictures from the scene show the plane — a twin propeller a Bombardier Dash 8 — broken into several large pieces, with dozens of rescue workers trying to save survivors.
The high altitude airport is prone to bird strikes and other hazards. In 1992 a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok crashed while landing in Kathmandu, killing all 99 passengers and 14 crew members.
In September 2012, a turboprop plane carrying trekkers to Mount Everest hit a bird and crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 19 on board.
Cover image: Nepalese rescuers stand near a passenger plane from Bangladesh that crashed at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, March 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shreshta)