Search for missing plane in Nepal continues

Relatives await news of the missing plane in west Nepal
Relatives await news of the missing plane in west Nepal
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A SEARCH for a plane that went missing in Nepal with 18 people on board yesterday is expected to resume this morning.

Two helicopters despatched for search and rescue halted their operation last night amid poor weather conditions.

Contact with the Nepal Airlines plane was lost a few ­minutes after it took off from the resort town of Pokhara, bound for Jumla, around 220 miles west of the capital, Kathmandu, officials said.

Ram Hari Sharma of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said the plane left after making an unscheduled fuel stop, but contact between the plane and the airport control tower was lost a few minutes later.

The Twin Otter plane had 15 passengers and three crew members on board.

It has been snowing this weekend in parts of the mountainous region, and visibility was poor due to fog. A rescue helicopter was dispatched and yesterday tried to reach the area where contact with the plane was lost, but the weather conditions made it difficult to operate.

An aviation official, Dharmendra Pandey, said villagers in Argakhachi district reported that the plane had crashed in a remote mountainous area. He said police were trying to reach the crash site.

One of the passengers on the de Havilland Canada-manufactured plane was believed to be a Danish national, while the rest, including a child, were Nepalese, Mr Sharma said.

Critics say that many passenger aircraft in Nepal are poorly maintained. In December, the European Union put all of Nepal’s airlines on a blacklist and banned them from flying to the EU on safety grounds.

The latest incident highlighted poor safety records in Nepal where 13 private airlines fly to nearly 50 airports, many of them in difficult locations in remote areas with often cloudy weather and no access by road.

At least 97 people have died in six air crashes in Nepal since 2010, the worst of which was in September 2012 when 19 people died after a Dornier plane crashed in Kathmandu just after taking off for Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest.

In May, another plane of the same make and model, operated by state-owned Nepal Airlines, crashed while attempting to land at a mountain airstrip in northern Nepal, injuring all 21 people on board.