Nepal has paused search-and-rescue efforts for a plane carrying 22 people that went missing Sunday. An army spokesperson cited “loss of daylight and adverse weather” for the suspension.
Air and ground efforts will resume in the morning, the army spokesperson said on Twitter at 7 p.m.
The aircraft, a DHC-6-300 Twin Otter operated by the private airline Tara Air, went missing shortly after taking off from Pokhara, in central Nepal, at 9:55 a.m. Sunday, according to the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.
The plane was headed for Jomsom, near Nepal’s border with Tibet. The flight time was supposed to be 20 minutes.
Tara Air told Reuters that the plane was carrying four Indian nationals, two Germans and 16 Nepalis, of whom three were crew members.
The Nepali army spokesperson said around 2 p.m. that military personnel and helicopters were “trying to locate [the] plane,” which was thought to be “in and around Lete,” about 22 miles south of Jomsom.
But the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said in a news release Sunday that at least one search helicopter returned to Jomsom “due to bad weather without locating the plane,” according to Reuters.
“Helicopters are ready to take off for search from Kathmandu, Pokhara and Jomsom once weather conditions improve,” aviation authorities said in a statement. “Army and police search teams have left toward the site.”
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. https://t.co/2aVhUrB82b
— IndiaInNepal (@IndiaInNepal) May 29, 2022
According to Flightradar24, a website that tracks flights in real time around the world, the Tara Air flight stopped transmitting a signal around Shikha, a mountainous area north of Pokhara. The aircraft lost contact with the control tower shortly after it took off on its short journey from Pokhara, the Associated Press reported.
Twenty-three people died in 2016 when a Twin Otter aircraft operated by Tara Air and flying the same Pokhara-to-Jomsom route crashed and was later found near a village about 30 miles south of Jomsom.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, audited Nepal’s civil aviation industry in 2017 and found that the country scored below the global average in investigating accidents. Nepali airlines are banned from flying in the airspace of the European Union because of “a lack of safety oversight by the aviation authorities” there.