'7 Britons dead' in Nepal air crash

Hillingdon Times: A plane with 19 people on board crashed near the Manohara River on the southwest edge of Kathmandu in Nepal (AP/ Binod Joshi) A plane with 19 people on board crashed near the Manohara River on the southwest edge of Kathmandu in Nepal (AP/ Binod Joshi)

Seven Britons are believed to be among 19 people who died in a plane crash in Nepal.

Nepalese police said the Britons were killed along with five Chinese people, as well as three other passengers and four crew members from the Himalayan country. The twin-engine propeller plane crashed shortly after take-off near Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed there were British fatalities and said it was "urgently" seeking to confirm the number and their identities.

A spokeswoman said: "The embassy in Kathmandu is in contact with the Nepalese authorities and the British ambassador has already been to the hospital where we understand the bodies were taken."

The plane, belonging to Nepal's domestic airline Sita Air was heading east towards Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest and a popular destination for trekkers. It crashed near the Manohara River to the south west of the city. Witnesses say it burst into flames and came down in a field, reports said.

Weather in Kathmandu was clear at the time of the crash. The pilot reported trouble two minutes after take-off, and Kathmandu airport official Ratish Chandra Suman said the plane appeared to have been trying to turn back to the airport. The official could not confirm if the plane was already on fire before it crashed.

The airport's police chief, Narayan Bastakoti, said firefighters brought the blaze in the wreckage under control and police rescuers were trying to pull out the bodies. He also confirmed that seven passengers were British and five were Chinese. The other three passengers and the four crew members were from Nepal, he said.

Thousands of Westerners head to the Himalayas every year to trek in the region around Mt Everest, the world's highest peak. Autumn is considered the best time to trek in the area. The crash follows an avalanche on another Nepal peak on Sunday that killed seven foreign climbers and a Nepali guide.

The crash site is only 500 metres from the airport and the wrecked plane was pointing towards the airport area. Mobile phone video shot by local people showed the front section of the plane was on fire when it first hit the ground and it appeared the pilot had attempted to land the plane on open ground beside a river.

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