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A plane carrying 22 passengers disappeared just minutes after takeoff in Nepal, sparking a major rescue mission.
The small twin-engine aircraft went missing in the mountainous region of Mustang on Sunday morning (29 May), with airport authorities saying it lost contact with the plane not long after it had left the ground.
Among those onboard were 19 passengers and three crew members taking the 15-minute flight from Pokhara to Jomsom, reports news agency ANI.
Police officials said the Tara Air 9 NAET plane is suspected to have crashed in the 'Titi' area of Lete in Mustang, although this is yet to be confirmed.
Nepal's Home Ministry has since launched a rescue mission including the deployment of two private helicopters from Mustang and Pokhara to search for the missing plane.
Home Ministry spokesperson Phadindra Mani Pokharel also told the outlet that a Nepal Army chopper is being prepared to help with the search.
Speaking about the incident, Ram Kumar Dani, DSP of District Police Office, said: "Locals from Titi have called and informed us that they have heard an unusual sound as if there was some bang. We are deploying a helicopter to the area for the search operation."
The aircraft is said to have last had contact at 9.55am, with Chief District Officer Netra Prasad Sharma telling ANI: “The aircraft was seen over the sky of Jomsom in Mustang district and then had diverted to Mt Dhaulagiri after which it hadn’t come into contact."
Just in: Tara Air's Plane crash has been confirmed. Officials and authorities are trying to reach the site. As per Airlines representative, the crash site is somewhere near Naurikot, Mustang. No other details about the crash has been confirmed yet. Let's hope for Good.— Routine of Nepal banda (@RONBupdates) May 29, 2022
According to Associated Press, among the passengers on the private flight were six foreigners, including four Indians and two Germans.
The Indian Embassy in Nepal confirmed the news on Twitter, writing: "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."
While authorities are doing everything they can to find the missing aircraft, bad weather and difficult terrain is said to be making the search even more challenging.
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.— IndiaInNepal (@IndiaInNepal) May 29, 2022
Our emergency hotline number :+977-9851107021. https://t.co/2aVhUrB82b
Mustang is the fifth largest district of Nepal, expanding across the Himalayas and extending onto the Tibetan Plateau.
The district is one of the most remote areas in the country and has the second most sparse population, but the area attracts hikers from across the globe and is a popular pilgrimage spot due to the local Muktinath temple.
UNILAD has contacted Tara Air for comment.
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