Heartbroken Nepalese expats in UAE mourn deadly crash, say why they avoid domestic flights

Heavy turbulence is standard in the Himalayan country, where airlines fly to remote hilly towns and mountains shrouded in clouds

by

Nasreen Abdulla

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

 

People hold placards as they take part in a condolence and protest meeting following the plane cras. Photo: Reuters
People hold placards as they take part in a condolence and protest meeting following the plane cras. Photo: Reuters

Published: Tue 17 Jan 2023, 3:09 PM

Last updated: Tue 17 Jan 2023, 3:38 PM

Families of the victims were inconsolable as they received the news of their death after the ATR 72 aircraft operated by Yeti Airlines crashed in Pokhara, Nepal, minutes before landing on Sunday, January 15, killing at least 70 people.

Many Nepalese expats in the UAE are shocked and grieving the worst air crash the small Himalayan nation has seen in three decades.


Dubai-based Uma whose daughter Sheetal Keshi is studying in Pokhara to become a lawyer, said a quiet gloom has descended on the town. "Monday was a holiday for educational institutes due to the crash," she said. "When I spoke to my daughter, she said everything was quiet, and people were sad."

Air safety issues

Uma, originally from Butwal, admits that despite the city of Pokhara being just half an hour by flight from her hometown, she always insists that her daughter takes the bus. "I am scared," she said. "Plane crashes keep occurring in Nepal because of the mountainous region, and I would rather have some peace of mind when I am sitting so far away in Dubai. So, I insist she takes the bus when she comes home for the holidays. It takes her around 7 hours to reach Pokhara from my house."


Uma
Uma

Heavy turbulence is standard in the Himalayan country, where airlines fly to small airports in remote hills in low visibility and mountains shrouded in clouds.

Lakshmi Chethri said she has only taken one flight in Nepal, and she hopes she never needs to in future. "I have flown to and from Dubai many times very safely," she said. "However, the one time I took a domestic flight in Nepal, I was scared for my life. There were loud rattling sounds, and I remember being absolutely terrified for the entire 45 minutes of the flight."

Lakshmi Chethri
Lakshmi Chethri

According to Lakshmi, she has always taken the bus since then. "It takes me around 12 hours by bus, but it is much safer."

Nepal has a history of air crashes. According to the Safety Matters Foundation's data, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946. The country's "hostile topography" and "diverse weather patterns" were cited as major challenges in a 2019 safety report from Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority.

Pall of sorrow

The accident cast a pall of sorrow on Sunday's otherwise jubilant celebrations of Maghe Sankranti. A festival widely observed in Nepal as the beginning of the auspicious month of Magh (Hindu calendar), families get together and share meals and sweets on this day.

"My daughter was at my sister-in-law's house when the incident occurred," said Uma. "On Monday, everyone lit lamps and observed moments of silence remembering the dead."

Ashim Pradhan, who hails from the Damauli area of Nepal, said the incident was heartbreaking. "Pokhara is just a 40-minute bus ride away from my house, so I have gone there numerous times," he said. "When I saw the Facebook live video of the travellers, it broke my heart. They seem to be so excited to be going there. It reminded me of when I travelled with my friends to Pokhara."

According to Ashim, tourists flock to Pokhara for a number of reasons including skydiving, paragliding and other adventure sports.

ALSO READ:


More news from UAE