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News24.com | Plane With 22 on Board Missing in Nepal

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The plan had 19 passengers on board and three crew members.It took off from the western town of Pokhara for Jomsom on Sunday morning.The plane’s last known location was in an area around Ghorepani at over 2 000 metres above sea level.

Nepali rescuers scoured a remote area of the lower Himalayas by helicopter and on foot Sunday after a passenger plane with 22 people on board went missing.

Nepal’s air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas as well as foreign trekkers and climbers. But it has a poor safety record.

The Twin Otter aircraft operated by Tara Air took off from the western town of Pokhara for Jomsom on Sunday at 09:55 but air traffic control lost contact after 15 minutes, the airline said.

There were 19 passengers on board and three crew members, airline spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula told AFP. The passengers included two Germans and four Indians, with the remainder Nepali.

The aircraft’s last known location was in an area around Ghorepani, a village at 2 874 metres above sea level, according to the aviation authority.

The Civil Aviation Authority said that in addition to two choppers, personnel from the army, police and the Himalayan Rescue Association had been deployed to conduct search operations on foot.

“Right now we cannot say where exactly where the aircraft is and in what condition. There has not been any reporting or information from locals about a big fire or any other such indications,” said Dev Raj Subedi, a spokesman for Pokhara Airport.

“Search operations have been hampered by the weather. Three helicopters have had to return. An army helicopter is now trying to reach the area,” he told AFP as light began to fade in the region.

– Poor record –

Jomsom is a popular trekking destination in the Himalayas about 20 minutes by plane from Pokhara, which lies 200 kilometres west of the capital Kathmandu.

Tara Air is a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, a privately owned domestic carrier which services many remote destinations across Nepal.

It suffered its last fatal accident in 2016 on the same route when a plane with 23 on board crashed into a mountainside in Myagdi district.

Nepal’s aviation industry has long been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance.

The European Union has banned all Nepali airlines from its airspace over safety concerns.

The Himalayan country also has some of the world’s most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.

The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.

– Emotional breakdown –

In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crash-landed near Kathmandu’s notoriously difficult international airport, skidded into a football field and burst into flames.

Fifty-one people died and 20 miraculously escaped the burning wreckage but sustained serious injuries.

An investigation found that the captain suffered an emotional breakdown during the flight, distracting the freshly qualified co-pilot who was at the controls when it crashed.

That accident was Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu airport.

Just two months earlier a Thai Airways aircraft crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.

In 2019 Nepal’s tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari was among seven people killed when a helicopter crashed in the country’s hilly east.

This month Nepal’s second international airport opened at Bhairahawa, aiming to give Buddhist pilgrims from across Asia access to the Buddha’s birthplace at nearby Lumbini and easing pressure on Kathmandu airport.

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News24.com | Thousands Protest in Madrid Against NATO Summit

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A crowd demonstrates against NATO.

Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto

Carrying the hammer and sickle flags of the former Soviet Union, thousands protested in Madrid on Sunday against a NATO summit which will take place in the Spanish capital next week.

Amid tight security, leaders of the member countries will meet in Madrid between 29-30 June as the organisation faces the unprecedented challenge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is expected to consider the bid, opposed by alliance-member Turkey, for Finland and Sweden to join.

The Nordic nations applied in the wake of the Russian assault on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a special military operation he says in part responds to the accession to NATO of other countries near post-Soviet Russia’s borders since the 1990s.

READ | Biden said Putin’s goal of weakening NATO by invading Ukraine backfired spectacularly

“Tanks yes, but of beer with tapas,” sang demonstrators, who claimed an increase in defence spending in Europe urged by NATO was a threat to peace.

“I am fed up (with) this business of arms and killing people. The solution they propose is more arms and wars and we always pay for it. So, no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons,” said Concha Hoyos, a retired Madrid resident, told Reuters.

Another protester, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine.

Organisers claimed 5,000 people joined the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 2 200.

READ | Pandor says Finland’s bid to join NATO indicates a decline in international security

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that the summit would also focus on the threat from Europe’s southern flank in Africa, in which he said Russia posed a threat to Europe.

“The foreign ministers’ dinner on the 29th will be centred on the southern flank,” he told El Pais newspaper.

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News24.com | Turkey Police Break up Istanbul Pride March, Detain Dozens: AFP

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Turkish police on Sunday forcibly intervened in a Pride march in Istanbul, detaining dozens of demonstrators and an AFP photographer, AFP journalists on the ground said.

The governor’s office had banned the march around Taksim square in the heart of Istanbul but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.

Police detained protesters, loading them into buses. AFP journalists saw two buses of people who had been held, including AFP’s chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who had been handcuffed from the back.

Kilic, who was also detained last year during the Pride march, is currently in police custody.

Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.

Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.

Istanbul Pride has taken place every year since 2003.

The last march which took place without a ban – in 2014 – drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.

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News24.com | NASA Blasts Off From Australian Outback in ‘historic’ Launch

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NASA’s first-ever launch from a commercial site outside of the United States blasted off from Australia’s Outback late Sunday, in a “historic” moment for the country’s space industry.

In the first of three planned launches from the Arnhem Space Centre, the rocket, carrying technology likened to a “mini Hubble” telescope, lifted off — blasted about 350 kilometres (218 miles) into the night sky.

“It is a momentous occasion for us as a company in particular, but it’s historic for Australia,” Equatorial Launch Australia CEO Michael Jones told AFP ahead of the lift-off.

Jones, whose company owns and operates the launch site in the far north of Australia, described it as a “coming out” party for the country’s space industry and said the chance to work with NASA was a milestone for commercial space firms in the country.

After a series of rain and wind delays, the suborbital sounding rocket soared into the sky to study x-rays emanating from the Alpha Centauri A and B systems.

After reaching its apogee, the rocket’s payload was to capture data on the star systems before parachuting back to earth.

READ | NASA is slowly powering down the Voyager probes. Here are 18 photos from its 45-year mission.

According to NASA, the launch offers a unique glimpse of the distant systems and unlocked fresh possibilities for scientists.

“We’re excited to be able to launch important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and see targets that we can’t from the United States,” Nicky Fox, NASA’s Heliophysics Division director in Washington, said on announcing the mission.

Jones said the unique location had made preparations hard, with years of work to get regulatory approval and the need to haul rockets on barges to the launch site – about 28 hours drive from Darwin in northern Australia.

“I think for the team, it’s gonna be, you know, a huge relief that it’s done,” he said.

READ | ‘Giant leap forward’ – South Korea space rocket launch puts satellites in orbit

But with the next launch already looming on July 4, the break would be short-lived.

“We need to, you know, dust ourselves off, take a day off and then get back into it in readiness for the next launch because it’s just as important.”

It is the first NASA rocket to launch from Australia since 1995, and the project was hailed as the start of a “new era” for the country’s space industry by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won’t be billed. 

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