A passenger plane carrying 71 people from Bangladesh crashed and burst into flames as it landed in Kathmandu, Nepal's capital on Monday, killing at least 38 people with several others rushed to nearby hospitals, officials said.
The death toll remained unclear amid the chaos of the crash and the rush of badly injured victims to nearby hospitals. Brig. Gen. Gokul Bhandari, the Nepal army spokesman, said 50 people had died and the fate of the others was unknown. But a police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said at least 38 people had died, 23 had been injured and 10 were unaccounted for.
An AP journalist who arrived at the scene soon after the crash saw the US-Bangla Airlines twin-propeller plane broken into several large pieces, with dozens of firefighters and rescue workers clustered around the wreckage in a grassy field near the runway. Hundreds of people stood on a nearby hill, staring down at what remained of the Bombardier Dash 8.
The plane swerved repeatedly as it prepared to land in Kathmandu, said Amanda Summers, an American working in Nepal. The crowded city sits in a valley in the Himalayan foothills.
"It was flying so low I thought it was going to run into the mountains," said Summers, who watched the crash from the terrace of her home office, not far from the airport. "All of a sudden there was a blast and then another blast."
Fire crews put out the flames quickly, perhaps within a minute, she said, though for a time clouds of thick, dark smoke rose into the sky above the city.
The Nepal Army has been pressed into rescue operations and the Tribhuvan International Airport has been closed. —AP