A plane with 22 people on board has gone missing in Nepal’s mountains, according to officials.
The small plane operated by a private airline in the South Asian country disappeared on Sunday morning.
It had been on a 15-minute scheduled flight from the tourist town of Pokhara to the mountain town of Jomsom, and lost contact with the airport tower shortly after take-off.
Local police said there was no information on the turboprop Twin Otter plane, which belonged to Tara Air, and a search was under way.
The 9N-AET plane is said to have lost contact at 9.55am, according to a Tara Air official.
An air traffic controller at Jomsom Airport said they have an unconfirmed report about a loud noise in nearby Ghasa, according to the Kathmandu Post.
The publication added that a helicopter has been dispatched to the area where the last contact was made, which was in Lete Pass.
But officials later said that cloudy weather was preventing search helicopters from flying into the area of the flight’s last known location.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said in a statement: “One search helicopter returned to Jomsom due to bad weather without locating the plane.
“Helicopters are ready to take off for search from Kathmandu, Pokhara and Jomsom once weather conditions improve. Army and police search teams have left towards the site.”
The aircraft had been carrying 13 Nepalis, four Indians, two Germans and three crew members. Seven of the passengers were women.
It has been raining in the area for several days, however, flights have been operating as usual.
Nepal’s weather office said there had been thick cloud cover in the Pokhara-Jomson area since Sunday morning.
Police said a land rescue-and-search team had been sent to the area near Mount Dhaulagiri – the world’s seventh-highest peak at 8,167 metres (26,795 ft).
The route the plane took required it to fly between mountains before landing in a valley.
It is a popular route with foreign hikers who trek on the mountain trails, as well as with Indian and Nepalese pilgrims who visit the revered Muktinath temple.
Home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest, Nepal has a record of air accidents due to its sudden weather changes.
In 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines flight from Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed on landing and caught fire, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.
And in 1992, all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it ploughed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.
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