Groups of rescuers arrived this Sunday by helicopters and on foot to a remote mountainous region of Nepal to start the search for a plane of the airline Tara Air with 22 people on board, with which contact was lost shortly after takeoff.
“A domestic flight bound for Jomsom that took off in Pokhara (central-western Nepal) lost contact” with air traffic control, Sudarshan Bartaula, a spokesman for the airline company, told AFP.
The plane, a Twin Otter carrying 19 passengers – including two Germans and four Indians – and three crew members, had taken off from Pokhara this Sunday at 9:55 a.m. local time, but contact was lost about 15 minutes later.
The last known location of the plane was at the height of an area near Ghorepani, a town located 2,874 meters above sea level, according to air authorities.
Rescue teams gathered at the Kathmandu airport to leave for the area where the plane disappeared. Photo: AP/Niranjan Shreshta.
The Civil Aviation Authority indicated that in addition to helicopters, army personnel, police personnel, and members of the Himalayan Rescue Association have been deployed for search operations.
“Right now we can’t tell exactly where the plane is and under what conditions. There have been no reports from local residents of a major fire or other indications,” said Dev Raj Subedi, spokesman for the Pokhara airport.
“Search Operations are hampered by bad weather. Three helicopters had to go back and now an army helicopter is trying to reach the area,” the spokesman added, as it began to get dark in the area.
Rescue teams are focusing on an area known as Khaibang, in the center of the Asian country, based on received emergency position transmitter data.
Jomsom is a popular destination for trekkers in the Himalayas, about a 20-minute flight from Pokhara, which is 200 kilometers west of Kathmandu.
Air transport in Nepal has grown a lot in recent years, thanks to the high number of tourists, a large part of them lovers of mountain sports.
But this Himalayan country has a dismal record on aviation safety due to the poor training of its pilots and aircraft maintenance problems. The country also has very dangerous tracks, located between snow-covered mountains.
Image of a Tata Air DHC-6 Twin Otter similar to the one that disappeared near the Himalayas. Photo: Reuters.
The European Union has banned all Nepalese airlines from accessing its airspace for security reasons.
In March 2018, a plane from the Bangladeshi company US-Bangla Airlines crashed near the Kathmandu airport, killing 51 people.
The most dramatic accident occurred in 1992, when 167 people lost their lives when a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed near Kathmandu airport.
Two months earlier, a Thai Airways plane had crashed in this same area, killing 113 people.