A PASSENGER plane carrying 22 people has crashed just minutes after taking off over mountains in Nepal, sparking a major rescue operation.
Nepal’s military confirmed the commercial flight crashed at the mouth of the Lamche river near Kowang, Mustang, on Sunday morning.
Army spokesperson Narayan Silwar said officials were yet to confirm the state of the aircraft and if there were any survivors.
He said the army was now moving towards the site from the ground and via an air route after cloudy weather hampered attempts by search crews.
A statement from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said one search helicopter was forced to abort its flight due to poor weather.
“One search helicopter returned to Jomsom due to bad weather without locating the plane,” the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said in a statement.
“Helicopters are ready to take off for search from Kathmandu, Pokhara and Jomsom once weather conditions improve. Army and police search teams have left towards the site.”
The small plane, operated by a private airline, disappeared over a remote mountain range on Sunday morning.
Travel authorities said the flight had been on a 15-minute scheduled trip from the tourist town of Pokhara to the mountain town of Jomsom when it lost contact with the airport shortly after take-off.
The 9N-AET plane, belonging to Tara Air, is said to have lost contact at 9:55am, according to a company official.
An air traffic controller at Jomson Airport said they received an unconfirmed report of a loud noise in Ghasa of Jomsom, according to Kathmandu Post.
It added that a helicopter was now surveying the area where contact as last made.
The aircraft had been carrying 16 Nepalese, four Indian and two German passengers and three crew members.
It’s understood the area has received heavy rain in the past few days but flights have operated as normal.
The plane was required to fly through a mountain range before landing in a valley.
The area is a popular hiking route as well as pilgrimage spot for Indians and Nepalese due to the revered Muktinath temple located there.