10/01/2012, 00.00
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Kathmandu, without DNA testing, victims of plane crash unrecognizable

by Kalpit Parajuli
The country lacks adequate facilities to carry out the test. The only option is to ask for help from India. Government officials play the blame game. Protest of families of 19 victims who died on board the aircraft bound for Everest.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The Nepalese government refuses to hand over the bodies of the 19 victims of the air disaster that occurred on September 28. According to police, the bodies are unrecognizable and a DNA test is needed to identify them. Unfortunately, Nepal does not have the technology to carry out the test and has asked India and other countries to use their equipment. To date, the estimated time for recognition is over a month. The news has sparked the ire of victims' families, mostly foreign who are not willing to wait for such a long period.

Wosti Harihar, head of the forensic department of the Tribhuwan University Hospital in Kathmandu, states that "the autopsies on the bodies have already been completed, but it is impossible to determine the identity without DNA testing." The doctor adds that the only option is to seek the assistance of foreign hospitals. "The bodies - he explains - are in terrible condition and if India agrees to help take us it will take more than a month to analyze all of the remains." Meanwhile, local media is railing against the authorities accused of failing to cooperate with the research institute, to avoid taking responsibility. Today Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, confessed that he knew nothing about the case. Bal Krishna Ghimire, spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, on the other hand silenced the criticism, saying that for the moment there are no updates.

The plane, owned by Sita Air, crashed minutes after taking off from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. According to the reconstruction, the aircraft collided with a large bird - perhaps a hawk - which damaged one of the engines triggering a fire on board. The pilot had attempted to land near the river Manahara, but without success. 19 people died in the disaster, seven Britons, five Chinese and seven Nepalese, including three crew. United Kingdom authorities have sent a team of experts on site to speed up the investigation.

Airplanes and helicopters are the main means of transport for the people of Nepal. Nepal has a limited network of roads and many communities in the mountains and hills are accessible only on foot or by air. The explosion of trekking tourism across the Himalayas has increased the risk of aircraft accidents. In a few years the travel agencies that offer tours on to the rooftop of the world have more than doubled. In order to collect more money, the authorities have lowered safety standards allowing flights during the monsoon season, characterized by fog and heavy rains. In December 2010, a plane carrying three crew members, 22 people in all, crashed into a mountain shortly after taking off from a small airstrip 140 kilometers east of Kathmandu. The passengers were mostly Bhutanese citizens on a pilgrimage who had chartered a plane to visit a Buddhist holy site in the area.


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