Rescuers have been focusing on the possible location of a passenger plane with 22 people on board that crashed on Sunday in cloudy weather in the mountains of Nepal, officials said.
The Tara Air plane was on a scheduled 20-minute flight from the resort town of Pokhara, 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Kathmandu, to the mountain town of Jomsom. The Twin Otter turboprop aircraft lost contact with the airport tower near landing in an area of deep gorges and mountain peaks.
An army helicopter and private helicopters were assisting in the search, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.
Army troops and rescue teams were heading towards the possible crash site, believed to be around Lete, a village in Mustang district, army spokesman Narayan Silwal said. on Twitter.
But bad weather and nightfall suspended the search until Monday morning, Silwal said.
“Poor visibility due to bad weather is hampering efforts. The plane has not yet been located,” he added. Rescuers were trying to reach an area where residents believed to have seen a fire, although it was still unclear what was burning, added Silwal said officials can only verify information once troops arrive on the scene.
Tara Air spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said rescuers had identified a possible location of the plane.
According to aircraft tracking data from flightradar24.com, the 43-year-old plane took off from Pokhara at 9:55 a.m. (0410 GMT) and transmitted its last signal at 10:07 a.m. (0422 GMT) at an altitude of 12,825 feet (3,900 meters).
There were six foreigners on the plane, including four Indians and two Germans, according to a police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The plane was carrying 19 passengers and three crew members, Bartaula said.
It has been raining in the area for a few days but flights are operating normally. Planes on this route fly between mountains before landing in a valley.
It is a popular route with foreign trekkers who trek the mountain trails as well as Indian and Nepalese pilgrims who visit the revered temple of Muktinath.
Nepal has a spotty aviation safety record.
In 2016, a Tara Air Twin Otter on the same route crashed after takeoff, killing all 23 people on board. In 2012, an Agni Air plane also flying from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed, killing 15 people. Six people survived. In 2014, a Nepal Airlines plane flying from Pokhara to Jumla crashed, killing all 18 people on board.
In 2018, a Bangladeshi-American passenger plane from Bangladesh crashed on landing in Kathmandu, killing 49 of the 71 people on board.
The Twin Otter, a rugged aircraft originally built by Canadian aircraft manufacturer De Havilland, has been in service in Nepal for about 50 years, during which time it has been involved in about 21 accidents, according to aviationnepal.com.
The aircraft, with its top-mounted wing and fixed landing gear, is valued for its durability and ability to take off and land on short runways.
Production of the aircraft initially ended in the 1980s. Another Canadian company, Viking Air, returned the model to production in 2010.
This version fixed the location to the west of the capital, not the east.