Missing Nepal plane: Aerial search halts overnight

Image source, AP
Image caption, Relatives of the passengers gathered at Kathmandu's domestic airport, where the plane began its journey

The aerial search for the plane that went missing in Nepal with 18 people on board has been suspended overnight.

Two helicopters despatched for search and rescue halted their operation as night wore on, amid poor weather conditions.

Soldiers are continuing with a ground search in the area where the plane is thought to have been when it was last in contact.

Officials say aerial surveillance will resume on Monday.

Contact with the Nepal Airlines plane was lost a few minutes after it took off from the resort town of Pokhara, bound for Jumla, around 360km (220 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, officials said.

Fifteen passengers - reportedly including a child - and three crew members were on board the aircraft.

The passenger manifest states that one of the passengers was Danish.

Critics say that many passenger aircraft in Nepal are poorly maintained.

The Canada-made Twin Otter plane went missing shortly after take-off at 12:40 local time (06:55 GMT), spokesman for the state-run airline, Ram Hari Sharma, told the BBC.

The flight had started in Kathmandu and stopped at Pokhara for refuelling.

Image source, AFP
Image caption, The EU blacklisted all Nepalese airlines in December, citing safety concerns

Poor record

In December the EU put all of Nepal's airlines on a blacklist and banned them from flying to the EU, on safety grounds.

In Nepal, 13 private airlines fly to nearly 50 airports, many of them in difficult locations, surrounded by mountains, cloudy weather and with no road access.

In September 2012, a plane operated by Nepal's Sita Air crashed near Kathmandu airport, killing 19 people.

In May of that year 15 people died when an Agni Air plane carrying Indian pilgrims to a Hindu religious site in northern Nepal crashed at a high-altitude airport.

Since 1949 - the year the first aircraft landed in Nepal - there have been more than 70 different crashes involving planes and helicopters, in which more than 700 people have been killed.

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