A plane operated by Nepal’s Tara Air carrying 22 people went missing at 9:55 a.m. local time on Sunday, an airline spokesperson confirmed to CNN.
There were 19 passengers and three crew members on board, the spokesperson said. The plane was flying from the city of Pokhara to Jomsom, a popular tourist town in central Nepal.
Two German nationals, four Indians and 13 Nepali citizens are among the 22 people missing, according to Nepal’s Home Ministry. The nationalities of two passengers are unknown.
Pokhara is some 80 miles west of Kathmandu, the capital.
The plane lost contact with the control tower five minutes before it was due to land at Jomsom, a popular tourist and pilgrimage site, an airline official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Tara Air mainly flies Canadian-built Twin Otter turboprop planes. Flight-tracking website Flightradar24 said the missing aircraft made its first flight in April 1979.
The spokesperson added that the Nepalese Army has been enlisted to help search for the missing plane.
Officials told Reuters that cloudy weather was preventing search helicopters from flying into the area of the flight’s last known location. The country’s weather office said there had been thick cloud cover in the Pokhara-Jomson area since the morning. One search helicopter was forced to return to Jomsom due to the inclement weather.
“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,” Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.
Police official Prem Kumar Dani said a land-based search-and-rescue team had been sent to the area near Mount Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh-highest peak at 26,795 feet (8,167 meters).
Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest, has a record of air accidents. Its weather can change suddenly and airstrips are typically sited in difficult-to-reach mountainous areas.
In early 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines flight from Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed on landing and caught fire, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.
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