Searchers used drones and rappelled down a 200-metre (656-feet) deep gorge in Nepal’s second-biggest city on Tuesday to search for two people unaccounted for after the country’s deadliest plane crash in 30 years killed at least 70 people.
Difficult terrain and inclement weather was hampering rescue efforts near the tourist city of Pokhara, where the Yeti Airlines ATR 72 turboprop carrying 72 people crashed in clear weather on Sunday just before landing.
Rescue teams were also struggling to identify bodies, Ajay K.C, a police official in Pokhara who is part of the rescue efforts, told Reuters.
“There is thick fog here now. We are sending search and rescue personnel using ropes into the gorge where parts of the plane fell and was in flames,” K.C.said.
Rescuers had collected what appeared to be human remains and sent them for a DNA test, he said, but search efforts would continue till all 72 passengers and crew were accounted for.
Search teams found 68 bodies on the day of the crash, while two more bodies were recovered on Monday before the search was called off.
“There were small children among the passengers. Some might have been burnt and died, and may not be found out. We will continue to look for them,” K.C. said.
An airport official said 48 bodies were brought to the capital Kathmandu on Tuesday and sent to a hospital for autopsies, while 22 bodies were being handed over to families in Pokhara.
Medical personnel in personal protective equipment and masks helped transport shrouded bodies from stretchers to a vehicle before they were flown to Kathmandu, Reuters pictures showed.
Television channels showed weeping relatives waiting for the bodies of their loved ones outside a hospital in Pokhara.
Dr Tulsi Kandel, at the teaching hospital in Kathmandu, said it could take up to a week to complete autopsies on all 48 bodies – half of them charred.
On Monday, searchers found the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder from the flight, both in good condition, a discovery that is likely to help investigators determine what caused the crash.
Under international aviation rules, the crash investigation agencies of the countries where the plane and engines were designed and built are automatically part of the inquiry.
ATR is based in France and the plane’s engines were manufactured in Canada by Pratt & Whitney Canada (RTX.N).
French and Canadian air accident investigators have said they plan to participate in the probe.