Passenger plane carrying 23 goes missing in Nepal

Tara Air - Nepal

A small passenger plane carrying 23 people has gone missing in a mountainous area of western Nepal.

The Twin Otter aircraft, operated by Tara Air, was travelling from Pokhara to Jomsom and lost contact with the control tower shortly after taking off.

Officials said the plane was carrying three crew and 20 passengers, one of them Chinese and one Kuwaiti. Two of those on board were children.

Nepal’s aviation industry has a poor safety record.

But Sanjiv Gautam, director general of Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, told the BBC’s Nepali Service the aircraft was new and the weather had been good. “We are surprised to know that it has gone missing,” he said.

He said the aircraft lost contact with the control tower at Pokhara 10 minutes after take-off. The identities of those on board have yet to be released.

Three helicopters are searching for the missing plane, Tara air said on its website, adding that “the weather at both origin and destination airports was favourable” for the 20-minute flight.

Nepal’s army said, however, that fog was hampering the search for the Twin Otter.

Nepalmap_small

Nepal map

Pokhara is a resort town some 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu. Jomsom, a short distance further north, is the starting point for many people trekking in the Himalayas.

There are no landing strips between the two locations and the plane took off at around 0750 local time (0205 GMT).

Nepal has a limited road network and many areas are accessible only on foot or by air.

Since 1949, the year the first aircraft landed in Nepal, there have been more than 70 different crashes involving planes and helicopters, in which more than 700 people have been killed.

In 2013, the European Union banned all Nepalese airlines from flying there.

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