Police in Nepal have launched a search after a plane carrying 22 people went missing shortly after takeoff.
The private plane departed from the tourist town of Pokhara in Nepal on Sunday morning, 29 May, ready to transport the passengers, which included six foreigners, on a 15-minute flight to Jomsom.
The aircraft was later seen in the sky over Jomsom, but at 9.55am local time the Tara Air 9 NAET twin-engine aircraft lost contact with airport authorities.
According to ANI, chief district officer Netra Prasad Sharma explained: "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."
Planes travelling on the route planned for the flight are said to fly between mountains before landing in a valley. The route is popular among travellers who come to trek on the trails of Nepal's mountains, which are some of the highest in the world, though it had been raining in the region for the past few days.
Local media reports cited by The Independent suggested the plane may have crashed in the Titi area of Lete in the Mustang district, which is home to the pilgrimage site of the Muktinath temple.
High-ranking police officer Ram Kumar Dani told ANI locals had reported hearing 'an unusual sound as if there was some bang' in the area.
"We are deploying a helicopter to the area for the search operation," he added.
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.— IndiaInNepal (@IndiaInNepal) May 29, 2022
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Nepal's home ministry has deployed two private helicopters from Mustang and Pokhara in a bid to track down the missing plane, India.com reports, while Phadindra Mani Pokharel, spokesperson at Home Ministry, told ANI a Nepal Army chopper is also being prepared to take part in the search for the missing plane.
Those on board are thought to have included four Indians and two Germans. Some reports suggest three Japanese nationals were also on the flight, though others indicate the remaining passengers included 13 Nepalis and three crew members.
The Indian embassy in Nepal confirmed it was in touch with the families of the Indians aboard in a post on Twitter, writing: "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."
The aircraft was piloted by captain Prabhakar Prasad Ghimire and was scheduled to land at Jomsom Airport in the Western mountainous region at 10.15am local time.