KATHMANDU, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Searchers used drones and abseiled down a 200-meter (656-foot) deep gorge in Nepal’s second-largest city on Tuesday to search for two missing people, the deadliest in the country plane crash at least 70 people have been killed in 30 years.
Difficult terrain and inclement weather hampered rescue efforts near the tourist town of Pokhara, where Yeti Airlines’ turboprop ATR 72 carrying 72 people crashed shortly before landing in clear weather on Sunday.
Rescue teams also 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 gorge where parts of the plane crashed and were on fire,” KC said.
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.
Search teams found 68 bodies on the day of the crash, while two more bodies were recovered Monday before the search was called off.
“There were small children among the passengers. Some may have been cremated and died and may not be found. We will continue to look for them,” KC said.
An airport official said 48 bodies were taken to the capital Kathmandu on Tuesday 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 shrouded bodies from stretchers to a vehicle before they were flown to Kathmandu, images obtained by Reuters showed.
TV channels showed crying relatives waiting for the bodies of their loved ones outside a hospital in Pokhara.
dr Tulsi Kandel, from the Kathmandu Teaching Hospital, said it could take up to a week to complete autopsies on all 48 bodies – half of them were charred.
On Monday, seekers found the The flight’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, both in good condition, a discovery likely to help investigators determine the cause of the crash.
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 that they will take part in the investigation.
Reporting by Gopal Sharma, Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Edited by Jamie Freed and Jacqueline Wnog
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