Plane carrying 22 people goes missing in the mountains of Nepal

A small passenger plane with 22 people on board went missing in cloudy weather in Nepal on Sunday, and authorities suspended a search in difficult terrain after dark.

“The search operation has been suspended for today due to darkness,” police spokesman Bishnu Kumar KC told Reuters. “We couldn’t make any progress. The search will resume early tomorrow.

Officials said bad weather and mountainous terrain hampered their efforts to locate the aircraft, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter operated by private company Tara Air.

The plane took off in the morning for a 20-minute flight but lost contact with the control tower five minutes before landing, government officials said.

The plane took off from the tourist town of Pokhara, 125 kilometers west of the capital, Kathmandu. He was heading for Jomsom, a popular tourist and pilgrimage site located about 80 kilometers northwest of Pokhara.

Nepalese state television said villagers saw a burning plane at the source of the Lyanku Khola river at the foot of the Himalayan mountain Manapathi in a district bordering Tibet.

This image taken in Simikot, Nepal in 2021 shows a Tara Air DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft with tail number 9N-AET, the same number as the plane that is now missing. (Madhu Thapa/Handout/Reuters)

“The ground search crews are heading in that direction,” Tara Air spokesman Sudarshan Gartaula told Reuters, referring to the site of the fire. “It could be a fire by villagers or by cowherds. It could be anything.”

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal also said a team was heading to this area.

The airline said the plane was carrying four Indians, two Germans and 16 Nepalese, including three crew members.

Flight tracking website Flightradar24 said the missing plane, registration 9N-AET, first flew in April 1979.

A man looks inside the Tara Air counter at a domestic airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Sunday after one of its planes went missing on its way to Jomsom. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

The weather bureau said there had been heavy cloud cover in the Pokhara-Jomson area since the morning.

Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 tallest mountains, including Everest, has a record for air crashes. Its weather can change suddenly, and airstrips are usually located in hard-to-reach mountainous areas.

In early 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh to Kathmandu crashed on landing and burst into flames, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.

In 1992, all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it slammed into a hill while trying to land in Kathmandu.