© Reuters. This flyer photo shows the Tara Air DHC-6 Twin Otter, tail number 9N-AET, in Simikot, Nepal, December 1, 2021. Photo taken December 1, 2021. Madhu Thapa / Posted via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – This photo was taken by A Gig Third. Resale prohibited. no arc
By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) – A small passenger plane with 22 people on board went missing in Nepal on Sunday in overcast weather and authorities suspended searches in difficult terrain as night fell.
“The search has been suspended today due to the darkness,” police spokesman Bishnu Kumar KC told Reuters. “We have not been able to make any progress. The search will continue tomorrow morning.”
Officials said inclement weather and mountainous terrain hampered their efforts to locate the aircraft, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter operated by privately owned Tara Air.
Government officials said the plane took off in the morning, a 20-minute flight, but lost contact with control tower five minutes before it was due to land.
The plane took off from the tourist town of Pokhara, 125 km west of the capital, Kathmandu. And I went to Jomsom, which is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Pokhara, which is a popular area for tourists and pilgrimages.
Nepalese state television said villagers saw a plane burning at the source of the Lianko Khola River at the foot of Mount Manabathi in the Himalayas in an area bordering Tibet.
“Ground search teams are moving in that direction,” Tara spokesman Sudarshan Gartola told Reuters, referring to the site of the fire. “It could be a fire from the villagers or from the cowboys. It could be anything.”
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) also said that a team was heading to the area.
The airline said the plane was carrying four Indians, two Germans and 16 Nepalese, including three crew members.
Flight tracker Flightradar24 said the missing plane, registration number 9N-AET, made its maiden flight in April 1979.
The meteorological office said there had been a thick cover of clouds in Pokhara Jomsun district since morning.
Nepal, home to eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest, has had a record number of aviation accidents. The weather can change suddenly and the runways are usually located in mountainous areas that are difficult to access.
In early 2018, a US Bangladesh Airlines flight from Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed on landing and caught fire, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.
In 1992, all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines flight were killed when it hit a hill while trying to land in Kathmandu.