A plane carrying 22 people, including 2 Germans, was reported missing over a mountainous area in Nepal, Tara Air and authorities announced on Sunday as poor weather conditions complicate search operations.
Contact was lost with a domestic flight heading for Jomsom from Pokhara, Sudarshan Bartaula, spokesperson for the Kathmandu-based airline, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The twin-engined Twin Otter had taken off from the city of Pokhara (central-western Nepal), before losing radio contact.
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He had on board 3 crew members and 19 passengers, including 2 Germans and 4 Indians, he said. Jomsom, known as a starting point for trekkers in the Himalayas, is a 20-minute flight from Pokhara, the country’s second-largest city, 200 km west of the capital, Kathmandu.
“We are trying to locate the area where the plane might be,” Tara Air spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula told AFP, adding that police and military rescue teams were on their way to the area. where the plane disappeared.
The last known position of the plane is in the vicinity of Ghorepani, a village located at nearly 2900 m altitude. For the moment, we do not know where the plane is, and in what condition. There has been no report of a fire or anything else that could give an indication, Pokhara airport spokesman Dev Raj Subedi told AFP.
The weather makes search operations difficult. Three helicopters had to give up. There remains an army helicopter which continues to attempt to wait for the area, he added as night was about to fall. The visibility is so low that you can’t see anything, said Phanindra Mani Pokharel, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, earlier, announcing the departure of helicopters for search operations.
Nepalese air transport has boomed in recent years, moving tourists, walkers, and mountaineers, as well as goods, to remote and hard-to-reach places by road.
Nepal, a poor country in the Himalayas, has a poor aviation safety record due to insufficient pilot training and maintenance. The European Union has banned all Nepalese airlines from accessing its airspace for security reasons. The country also has some of the most remote and dangerous slopes in the world, located in the middle of snow-capped peaks.
Recurring air accidents
In March 2018, a Bangladeshi company US-Bangla Airlines plane crashed near Kathmandu airport, killing 51 people.
The following year, three people died when a plane failed to take off and hit two helicopters.
The accident occurred at Lukla airport, the gateway to Everest, which has the reputation of being one of the airports in the world where it is the most complicated to land and take off.
The deadliest accident dates back to 1992 when 167 people were killed on board a Pakistan International Airlines flight near Kathmandu airport.
Two months earlier, a Thai Airways plane crashed in the same area, killing 113 people.
In May, Nepal’s second international airport opened in Bhairahawa, allowing Buddhist pilgrims from all over Asia to access the Buddha’s birthplace in nearby Lumbini.
This project, for 76 million dollars, should make it possible to offload the international airport of Kathmandu.