A small passenger plane operated by a private airline in Nepal went missing on Sunday with 22 people on board, including four Indians, airline officials said.
The Tara Air 9 NAET twin-engine aircraft lost contact while flying from the tourist town of Pokhara, some 200 km northwest of the capital, Kathmandu, to Jomsom, about 80 km to the northwest, they said. The aircraft, which was on a 15-minute scheduled flight, lost contact shortly after take-off at 9:55 am local time. “The aircraft was seen over the sky of Jomsom in Mustang district and then had diverted to Mt. Dhaulagiri after which it hadn’t come into contact,” Chief District Officer Netra Prasad Sharma was quoted by news agencies.
“Locals from Titi have called and informed us that they heard an unusual sound as if there was some bang. We are deploying a helicopter to the area for the search operation,” stated Ram Kumar Dani, DSP of District Police Office, Mustang.
The aircraft had four Indians and three Japanese nationals. The remaining were Nepali citizens and the aircraft had 22 passengers including the crew. Police officials suspect the aircraft crashed in the “Titi” area of Lete in the mountainous Mustang district, which is the fifth-largest district of the Himalayan nation and hosts the pilgrimage of Muktinath Temple.
The Indian embassy in Nepal said it was in touch with the families of the Indians aboard. “Tara Air flight 9NAET that took off from Pokhara at 9.55 AM today with 22 people onboard, including 4 Indians, has gone missing. Search and rescue operation is on. The embassy is in touch with their family. Our emergency hotline number :+977-9851107021,” it tweeted.
The Nepal government has deployed two private helicopters from Mustang and Pokhara for the search for missing aircraft. Nepal Army chopper is also being prepared to be deployed for the search, said Phadindra Mani Pokharel, spokesperson at Home Ministry told ANI over the phone.
Nepal, home to the world’s highest mountain, does have a record of accidents on its extensive domestic air network, with changeable weather and airstrips in difficult mountain locations.