NEW DELHI: A Nepalese airlines plane with 22 people on board, including four members of an Indian family, went missing in the mountainous region of the country on Sunday morning, a few minutes after it took off from Pokhara, around 200 km east of Kathmandu.
The fate of the passengers remained unclear as search and rescue operations had to be called off in the evening due to heavy snowfall and bad weather. The 43-year-old Twin Otter (DHC 6/300) aircraft, operated by Nepal’s Tara Air, was headed for Jomsom, a popular tourist location, when it went missing. The condition of the plane that took off at 10:15 am from Pokhara is unknown till now, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said in a statement.
“The Nepal Army has halted all efforts of search and rescue for the day due to loss of daylight and adverse weather conditions. The search will be resumed early in the morning tomorrow (Monday) both from air and ground. Our search and rescue team is on standby,’’ said a spokesperson of the Nepal Army, adding that the incident site is believed to be around Lete, Mustang. The residents around the area had reportedly heard a loud noise and noticed something burning.
“Once our troops reach the location, we will be able to verify the statements of the villagers,’’ the spokesperson said. According to the army, the plane went missing at the mouth of the Lamche river near Manapthi Himal. As per the flight’s manifest, the four Indians are Ashok Kumar Tripathi, his wife Vaibhavi and children Dhanush and Ritika a family based in Thane city near Mumbai. The other passengers included two Germans and 13 Nepali passengers, besides a three-member crew on board, according to a spokesperson of the airline.
The passengers were probably headed for Muktinath, which is a known pilgrimage and a popular tourist destination. According to sources, the area had witnessed incessant rain during the past few days. The inclement weather could have been one of the reasons for the plane going missing, the sources said. Meanwhile, the signals from the pilots’ phones were being transmitted till late afternoon on Sunday, raising hopes of survivors.