Kathmandu, 29 May
The fate of 22 people, including four members of an Indian family who boarded a Nepalese airline flight, remains unclear amid bad weather and cloud cover that made it difficult to find the plane, which disappeared in the mountainous region of the Himalayan nation on Sunday. Officials said they set off after taking off from the tourist city of Pokhara.
Nepal Civil Aviation Authority (CAAN) said that the status of the Tara Air plane, which took off at 10:15 am from Pokhara, 200 kilometers east of Kathmandu, is not known so far.
Airlines spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said the turboprop Twin Otter 9N-AET had four Indian nationals, two Germans and 13 Nepali passengers, as well as a three-person Nepali crew.
The plane was traveling from the city of Pokhara to Jomsom, a popular tourist town in central Nepal.
The airline has released a list of passengers identifying the four Indians as Ashok Kumar Tripathy, his wife Vaibhavi Bandekar (Tripathy) and their children Dhanush and Ritika. The family currently resides in Thane city near Mumbai.
“The status of the aircraft is still unknown, as search operations in possible areas were hampered by rough terrain and bad weather,” CAAN said in a statement.
However, it was stated that the Rescue Coordination Center will remain open 24 hours a day and that the search efforts will be intensified by air and land.
It was stated that private helicopters participated in the search as well as a military helicopter.
A spokesman for the Nepal Army said that troops and rescuers, along with the helicopter, are trying to identify the possible scene of the incident believed to be in Mustang, Lete and surrounding areas.
“Weak visibility due to bad weather hinders efforts. The aircraft has not yet been located. We are trying to reach the place where the locals allegedly saw something burning. Once our troops arrive in the area, only we can confirm the findings, officially and independently,” he said.
He said the military has halted all search and rescue efforts for today due to the dimming of daylight and adverse weather conditions. The search will continue in the early morning hours of Monday, both from the air and on the ground,” he added, adding that a search and rescue team in Jomsom is on standby.
In a tweet, the Indian embassy in Nepal released an emergency hotline number: +977-9851107021.
“Tara Air 9NAET flight, which took off from Pokhara with 22 people, including 4 Indians, at 9.55 today, disappeared. Search and rescue operation continues. The embassy is in contact with their families,” he said.
The crew of the plane was led by captain Prabhakar Prasad Ghimire. Utsav Pokhrel is co-pilot, Kismi Thapa is stewardess, Pokhara Airport Information Officer Dev Raj Adhikari.
The plane was scheduled to land at 10:15 a.m. at Jomsom Airport in the western mountainous region.
Aviation sources said the plane lost contact with the tower from the sky above Ghorepani on the Pokhara-Jomsom airline.
According to an air traffic controller at Jomsom Airport, there has been an unconfirmed report of loud noise in Jomsom Ghasa. The plane was suspected to have crashed in the Dhaulagiri area.
Prem Nath Thakur, general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport, said a Nepal Army helicopter carrying 10 soldiers and two employees of the civil aviation authority landed on a riverbank near the likely crash site, Narshang Monastery. by Cumhuriyet newspaper.
Interestingly, the plane was found after it tracked the cell phone of pilot Captain Prabhakar Ghimire via Nepal Telecom’s Global Positioning System (GPS) network.
“The cell phone of Captain Ghimire of the missing plane is ringing and the Nepal Army helicopter has landed at the possible crash site after tracking the captain’s phone through Nepal Telecom,” Thakur said.
Myagdi Regional Manager Chiranjibi Rana previously told The Kathmandu Post newspaper that bad weather hindered search efforts at the plane’s last sighting by locals.
According to him, locals reported that the plane made two circles in Khaibang and headed for Kiti Danda near Lete Pass (2500m).
“A police team has been dispatched to the site. The site is a 12-hour walk from Lete,” he said. “There is no human habitation in the area where the locals last saw the plane.” “As soon as the weather clears, the helicopter will begin air operations,” Rana said.
Earlier in the day, a helicopter flying from Pokhara to search for the missing aircraft returned unsuccessfully due to bad weather.
Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand has instructed the authorities to intensify the search operations for the missing plane.
Netra Prasad Sharma, Mustang District Chief, said that following the Interior Minister’s instruction, the security guards of the five districts adjacent to the Dhaulagiri Summit were urged to remain vigilant.
Officials said the plane was last watched as it turned towards Dhaulagiri Peak.
A Nepal Army MI-17 helicopter was also sent from Kathmandu to Lete to assist in the search operation.
Families of the missing crew and passengers gathered at Pokhara Airport.
In 2016, all 23 people on board were killed when a plane belonging to the same airline, flying on the same route, crashed after takeoff.
In March 2018, a US-Bangla Air accident occurred at Tribhuvan International Airport, killing 51 people on board.
In September 2012, a Sita Air plane crashed while making an emergency landing at Tribhuvan International Airport, killing 19 people.
A plane flying from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed near Jomsom airport on 14 May 2012, killing 15 people.
According to the airline’s website, Tara Air is the newest and largest airline service provider in the mountains of Nepal. It began operations in 2009 with a mission to help develop Nepal’s countryside. PTI