Passenger plane goes missing with 22 onboard

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On Sunday, a small passenger plane carrying 22 passengers went missing in Nepal’s gloomy weather, and authorities called off their search in tough terrain as darkness fell.

“The search operation has been suspended for today because of the darkness. We could not make any progress. The search will resume early tomorrow,” a police officer said.

Government officials said that the plane took off in the morning for a 20-minute flight but lost contact with the control tower five minutes before it was due to land.

The jet took off from Pokhara, a tourist spot 125 kilometres (80 miles) west of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. It was on its way to Jomsom, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Pokhara and a famous tourist and pilgrimage destination.

Villagers saw an aircraft on fire at the source of the Lyanku Khola River at the foot of the Himalayan mountain Manapathi in a district bordering Tibet, according to Nepal Television.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said a team was headed to that area.

Four Indians, two Germans, and 16 Nepalis, including three crew members, were on board, according to the airline.

The passenger plane, with the registration number 9N-AET, first flew in April 1979, according to the flight-tracking website Flightradar24.

Since that morning, there had been dense cloud cover in the Pokhara-Jomson area, according to the weather office.

Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest, has a record of air accidents. Its weather can change suddenly, and airstrips are typically located in mountainous areas that are hard to reach.

In early 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines flight from Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed on landing and caught fire, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.

In 1992, all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it ploughed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.

Read: Search paused in Nepal for missing plane with 22 onboard

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