An airline spokesperson confirmed to CNN that a plane operated by Nepal’s Tara Air carrying 22 people went missing early Sunday morning.
The plane was flying from Pokhara to Jomsom, a popular tourist destination in Nepal’s central region. According to Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, the plane took off at 9:55 a.m. local time and lost communication with air traffic control around 12 minutes into the flight.
The flight time between the two cities is about 20-25 minutes. According to the spokeswoman, there were 19 passengers and three crew members on board.
According to Binod B.K., a Nepalese home ministry official, authorities believe the tragedy was caused by bad weather.
According to the government, two German nationals, four Indians, and 13 Nepalese citizens are among the 22 individuals missing. Two travelers’ nationalities are unknown.
An airline official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the jet lost touch with the control tower five minutes before it was scheduled to land in Jomsom. Tara Air mostly operates Twin Otter turboprop planes produced in Canada. According to the flight-tracking website Flightradar24, the missing plane took off for the first time in April 1979.
The Nepalese Army has also been engaged to assist in the hunt for the missing jet, according to the spokeswoman.
Cloudy weather was preventing search helicopters from flying towards the region of the flight’s last known position, officials told Reuters.
Since the morning, dense cloud cover has been present in the Pokhara-Jomson area, according to the country’s weather service. Due to the weather, one search helicopter was forced to return to Jomsom.
“If the weather improves, helicopters from Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Jomsom will be ready to hunt.” In a statement, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said, “Army and police search teams have departed towards the scene.”
Prem Kumar Dani, a police officer, said a land-based search-and-rescue team had been dispatched to the region near Mount Dhaulagiri, which stands at 26,795 feet and is the world’s seventh-highest mountain (8,167 meters).
Nepal has a history of aviation mishaps, as it is home to eight of the world’s fourteen tallest mountains, including Everest. Its weather is unpredictable, and airstrips are usually located in difficult-to-reach hilly areas.
A Tara Air flight crashed in 2016 while travelling the same route as the one that went missing on Sunday. A freshly purchased Twin Otter aircraft was flying in clear weather at the time of the incident.
A US-Bangla Airlines aircraft from Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed and caught fire on landing in early 2018, killing 51 of the 71 passengers on board.