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Nepal has halted search and rescue efforts for a plane carrying 22 people missing on Sunday. An army spokesman justified the suspension with “loss of daylight and adverse weather”.
Air and ground efforts will resume in the morning, the army spokesman said on Twitter at 7 p.m
The plane, a DHC-6-300 Twin Otter operated by private airline Tara Air, disappeared shortly after taking off from Pokhara in central Nepal at 9:55 am Sunday, according to the Embassy of India in Kathmandu.
The plane was en route to Jomsom near Nepal’s border with Tibet. The flight time should be 20 minutes.
Tara Air told Reuters the plane was carrying four Indian nationals, two Germans and 16 Nepalese, three of whom were crew members.
The Nepalese Army spokesman said around 2:00 p.m. that military personnel and helicopters were “trying to locate them [the] Airplane” believed to be “in and around Lete” about 22 miles south of Jomsom.
But the civil aviation authority of Nepal said in a press release on Sunday that at least one search helicopter had returned to Jomsom “due to bad weather without locating the plane,” according to Reuters.
“Helicopters are ready to take off from Kathmandu, Pokhara and Jomsom for search once weather conditions improve,” the aviation authorities said in a statement. “Army and police search teams have headed towards the site.”
Tara Air flight 9NAET which took off from Pokhara at 9.55am today with 22 people on board including 4 Indians has gone missing. Search and rescue operation underway. The embassy is in contact with her family.
Our emergency number: +977-9851107021. https://t.co/2aVhUrB82b
— IndiaInNepal (@IndiaInNepal) May 29, 2022
According to Flightradar24, a website that tracks real-time flights around the world, the Tara Air flight has stopped transmitting a signal around Shikha, a mountainous area north of Pokhara. The plane lost contact with the control tower shortly after takeoff on its short trip from Pokhara, the Associated Press reported.
23 people died in 2016 when a Tara Air-operated Twin Otter plane flying the same route from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed and was later found near a village about 30 miles south of Jomsom.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, examined Nepal’s civil aviation industry in 2017 and found that the country scores below the world average in accident investigations. Nepalese airlines are banned from flying in the airspace of the European Union due to “a lack of safety supervision by the local aviation authorities”.
At least 49 dead in Nepal after plane crashes on landing, officials say