Connect with us

World

Flight data, voice recorders retrieved from Nepal crash site

Published

on

Flight data, voice recorders retrieved from Nepal crash site

A spokesman for Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority says a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder have been retrieved from the site of the crash of a passenger plane that went down on approach to a newly opened airport in the tourist town of Pokhara.

Jagannath Niraula said the boxes were found on Monday, a day after the ATR-72 aircraft crashed, killing 68 of the 72 people aboard. He said they will be handed over to investigators.

Pemba Sherpa, spokesperson for Yeti Airlines, also confirmed that both the flight data and the cockpit voice recorders have been found.

Nepal began a national day of mourning Monday, as rescue workers rappelled down a 300-meter (984 feet) gorge to continue the search. Two more bodies were found Monday morning.

Advertisement

It remains unclear what caused the crash, the Himalayan country’s deadliest airplane accident in three decades. The weather was mild and not windy on the day of the crash.

A witness who recorded footage of the plane’s descent from his balcony said he saw the plane flying low before it suddenly veered to its left. “I saw that and I was shocked… I thought that today everything will be finished here after it crashes, I will also be dead,” said Diwas Bohora. After it crashed, red flames erupted and the ground shook violently, like an earthquake, Bohora said. “I was scared. Seeing that scene, I was scared.”

Another witness said he saw the aircraft twist violently in the air after it began descending to land, watching from the terrace of his house. Finally, Gaurav Gurung said, the plane fell nose-first towards its left and crashed into the gorge.

Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said the aircraft last made contact with the airport from near Seti Gorge at 10:50 a.m. before crashing.

The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, was competing the 27-minute flight from the capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, 200 kilometers (125 miles) west. It was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.

Advertisement

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Pokhara Academy of Health and Science, Western Hospital, where the bodies are being kept. Relatives and friends of victims, many of whom were from Pokhara, consoled each other as they waited.

Bimala Bhenderi was waiting outside the post-mortem room Monday. She was planning to meet her friend, Tribhuban Paudel, on Tuesday when she heard that his flight had crashed. “I’m so sad, I can’t believe it still,” she said in tears.

Gyan Khadka, a police spokesperson in the district, said 31 bodies have been identified and will be handed over to family after officials finish post mortem reports. The bodies of foreigners and those that are unrecognizable will be sent to Kathmandu for further investigation.

On Sunday, Twitter was awash with images that showed plumes of smoke billowing from the crash site, about 1.6 kilometers (nearly a mile) away from Pokhara International Airport. The aircraft’s fuselage was split into multiple parts that were scattered down the gorge.

Hours after dark, scores of onlookers remained crowded around the crash site near the airport in the resort town of Pokhara as rescue workers combed the wreckage on the edge of the cliff and in the ravine below.

Advertisement

Local resident Bishnu Tiwari, who rushed to the crash site near the Seti River to help search for bodies, said the rescue efforts were hampered by thick smoke and a raging fire.

“The flames were so hot that we couldn’t go near the wreckage. I heard a man crying for help, but because of the flames and smoke we couldn’t help him,” Tiwari said.

At Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, family members appeared distraught as they waited for information.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal rushed to the airport after the crash and set up a panel to investigate the accident.

”The incident was tragic. The full force of the Nepali army, police has been deployed for rescue,” he said.

Advertisement

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it’s still trying to confirm the fate of two South Korean passengers and has sent staff to the scene. The Russian Ambassador to Nepal, Alexei Novikov, confirmed the death of four Russian citizens who were on board the plane.

Omar Gutiérrez, governor of Argentina’s Neuquen province, wrote on his official Twitter account that an Argentine passenger on the flight was Jannet Palavecino, from his province.

The Facebook page of Palavecino says she was manager of the Hotel Suizo in Neuquen city. She described herself as a lover of travel and adventure tourism.

Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters Monday that “our hearts go out to all of the families of the crew and passengers” who died, adding that the government was providing consular support to the family of an Australian who was aboard the plane.

Pokhara is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular hiking trail in the Himalayas. The city’s new international airport began operations only two weeks ago.

Advertisement

The type of plane involved, the ATR 72, has been used by airlines around the world for short regional flights. Introduced in the late 1980s by a French and Italian partnership, the aircraft model has been involved in several deadly accidents over the years.

In Taiwan two earlier accidents involving ATR 72-500 and ATR 72-600 aircrafts happened just months apart.

In July 2014, a TransAsia ATR 72-500 flight crashed while trying to land on the scenic Penghu archipelago between Taiwan and China, killing 48 people onboard. An ATR 72-600 operated by the same Taiwanese airline crashed shortly after takeoff in Taipei in February 2015 after one of its engines failed and the second was shut down, apparently by mistake.

The 2015 crash, captured in dramatic footage that showed the plane striking a taxi as it hurtled out of control, killed 43, and prompted authorities to ground all Taiwanese-registered ATR 72s for some time. TransAsia ceased all flights in 2016 and later went out of business.

ATR identified the plane involved in Sunday’s crash as an ATR 72-500 in a tweet. According to plane tracking data from flightradar24.com, the aircraft was 15 years old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data.” It was previously flown by India’s Kingfisher Airlines and Thailand’s Nok Air before Yeti took it over in 2019, according to records on Airfleets.net.

Advertisement

Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR 72-500 planes, company spokesperson Sudarshan Bartaula said.

Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, has a history of air crashes. Sunday’s crash is Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it plowed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.

According to the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety database, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.

According to a 2019 safety report from Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, the country’s “hostile topography” and “diverse weather patterns” were the biggest dangers to flights in the country. The report said such accidents happened at airports that had short strips of runway for takeoff and landing and most were due to pilot error.

The report added that 37% of all air crashes in Nepal between 2009 and 2018 were due to pilot error, not counting helicopters and recreational flights.

Advertisement

The European Union has banned airlines from Nepal from flying into the 27-nation bloc since 2013, citing weak safety standards. In 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organization cited improvements in Nepal’s aviation sector, but the EU continues to demand administrative reforms.

World

‘He’s close to us’: Wheelchair users in Africa await pope

Published

on

By

'He's close to us': Wheelchair users in Africa await pope

When Pope Francis arrives in Congo and South Sudan next week, thousands of people will take special note of a gesture more grounded than the sign of the cross. Watching from their wheelchairs, they will relate to the way he uses his.

The pope, who began using a wheelchair last year, is visiting two countries where years of conflict have disabled many, and yet they are among the world’s most difficult places to find accessibility and understanding. His visit is heartening Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

“We know that it’s a suffering, but it also comforts us to see a grand personality like the pope using a wheelchair,” said Paul Mitemberezi, a market vendor in Goma, at the heart of the eastern Congo region threatened by dozens of armed groups. “Sometimes it gives us the courage to hope that this isn’t the end of the world and one can survive.”

Mitemberezi, a Catholic and a father, has been disabled since he was 3 because of polio. He works to support his family because he can’t imagine a life of begging. On the way to market, his three-wheeled chair crunches the stones of unpaved roads. Without a ramp at home, he must leave the brightly painted vehicle outdoors, at risk of theft.

Advertisement

Every morning, before he leaves for basketball practice, he makes sure the chair’s still there before crawling out his front door. “It is my legs, which helps me to live,” he said. He applies a bicycle pump to the wheels and is off, weaving through traffic of motorcycles and trucks.

Pope Francis is still adjusting to a life that Mitemberezi has long accepted. The pope was first seen publicly in a wheelchair in May, with an aide pushing it. The pope, at age 86, never propels himself. Sometimes he walks with a cane, but he uses the chair for longer distances and has a wheelchair lift to get on and off planes.

Francis has insisted that his mobility limitations don’t affect his ability to be pope, saying “You lead with your head, not your knee.” He has lamented how today’s “throwaway culture” wrongly marginalizes disabled people. He makes it a point to visit places serving the disabled during his foreign trips, and routinely spends time greeting wheelchair users at the end of his general audiences.

“No disability — temporary, acquired or permanent — can change the fact that we are all children of the one Father and enjoy the same dignity,” Francis wrote in his annual message for the U.N. International Day of Persons with Disabilities in December. He said people with different abilities enrich the church and teach it to be more humane.

Such messages are warmly awaited by wheelchair users in South Sudan, where a five-year civil war killed hundreds of thousands of people. As in Congo, data is lacking on just how many people are disabled by conflict or other means.

Advertisement

While the road leading to the Vatican’s embassy in the South Sudan capital, Juba, was paved by city authorities this month for ease of travel, residents who use wheelchairs said they have long gone without easy access to schools, health centers, toilets and other public facilities.

South Sudan, unlike Congo, is yet to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Both countries, however, face vast challenges including underfunded health systems, poor infrastructure and conflicts that leave many disabled people vulnerable as others flee.

Even displacement camps and shelters often are not accessible, the United Nations has said, and wheelchairs are not always available.

Discrimination is another problem. “People see those who get around using a wheelchair as useless,” said James Moses, who leads a local organization in South Sudan for disabled people and uses crutches after being wounded by a land mine.

He and others called on South Sudan’s government to give them special consideration during the pope’s visit, and they hope that Francis will advocate for them. “He’s close to us,” said Susan Samson, a wheelchair user and mother.

Advertisement

They hope they will have a chance to greet the pope at the airport with congratulatory messages and flowers. ”Put us in front so the pope will see us,” urged wheelchair user Seme Lado Michael.

The Vatican’s ambassador to Congo, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, said he believed the sight of a wheelchair-using pope could be a powerful teaching moment in a culture where disabilities are often viewed with suspicion and superstition.

Families often abandon their disabled children, he said.

Seeing someone like the pope suffer should make Francis more approachable for people during his visit, Balestrero said. “They identify, in a way, even more with him.”

Advertisement
Continue Reading

World

Russia’s deputy foreign minister to meet new US envoy early next week

Published

on

By

Russia's deputy foreign minister to meet new US envoy early next week

 Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov will hold a meeting with Lynne Tracy, the new U.S. ambassador to Moscow, early next week, the RIA news agency reported on Saturday.

Tracy arrived in Moscow earlier this week. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday that the new U.S. ambassador would not improve ties between the two countries because of what she called Washington’s ongoing “hybrid war” against Russia.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have been at rock bottom since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February. Russia casts the war as confronting what is says is an aggressive and expansionist U.S.-led NATO alliance, while Kyiv and its allies call Russia’s actions an unprovoked land grab.

According to Ryabkov, the traditional presentation of copies of credential by Tracy is already agreed upon.

Advertisement

“It will take place literally at the beginning of the week. It is expected that the transfer of copies of credentials by Ambassador Tracy will be made to me,” he said. 

Continue Reading

World

Japan eyes easing S Korea export controls as Seoul seeks to improve ties

Published

on

By

Japan eyes easing S Korea export controls as Seoul seeks to improve ties

Japan is considering relaxing controls on exports to South Korea as its president, Yoon Suk-yeol, seeks to improve ties amid a strained East Asian security environment, the Sankei newspaper reported on Saturday.

Japan will decide whether to ease the curbs on shipping high-tech materials, which it imposed in 2019 over a dispute about Japan’s wartime forced labour of Korean workers, as the neighbours hold a series of talks aimed at solving the dispute, Sankei said, citing unidentified government sources.

Japan’s foreign ministry and trade ministry officials were not immediately available for comment on the report when Reuters contacted them outside regular business hours.

The issue of the export curbs would likely be resolved during consultations between South Korea and Japan on various issues including forced labour, South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Advertisement

“Given the growing need to promote cooperation among countries sharing universal values at a time when the importance of economic security is increasing, we hope that Japan will judge wisely,” the South Korean ministry said.

Foreign ministers of the two countries met for talks in Tokyo this month. Their diplomatic officials are due to meet on Monday in the South Korean capital, Seoul, as they near a conclusion of a plan for the resolving their dispute, Jiji news reported on Friday.

The East Asian neighbours, both important U.S. allies, share a bitter history dating to Japan’s colonisation of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Yoon, who became South Korea’s leader in May last year, has also made increasing cooperation with Japan a core goal despite the lingering disputes.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © GLOBAL TIMES PAKISTAN