Nepal passenger plane crash kills all 23 on board

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Archive picture of a Tara Airlines small plane landing at Jomsom airportImage source, EPA
Image caption,
An archive picture of a Tara Airlines plane landing in Jomsom, a popular resort town

A small passenger plane has crashed in mountainous western Nepal, killing all 23 people on board.

The Twin Otter aircraft, operated by Tara Air, was travelling from Pokhara to Jomsom and lost contact with the control tower shortly after taking off.

Most of those on board were Nepalis. It is not clear what caused the crash.

The plane was carrying three crew and 20 passengers, one of them Chinese and one Kuwaiti. Nepal's aviation industry has a poor safety record.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Relatives waited for information at Pokhara airport

According to Sanjiv Gautam, director general of Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority, the plane's wreckage was found near the village of Dana in Myagdi district.

Earlier he told the BBC Nepali Service that the aircraft had lost contact with the control tower at Pokhara 10 minutes after take-off.

The identities of those on board have yet to be released. Two of those on board were children.

Three helicopters were sent to search for the missing plane, Tara Air said on its website, adding that "the weather at both origin and destination airports was favourable" for the 20-minute flight.

Nepal's army said, however, that fog had hampered the search for the aircraft.

"It looks like the plane crashed into the hillside. The wreckage was still in flames when the team arrived," chief district officer Sagar Mani Pathak told AFP news agency.

"We are sending teams to bring down the bodies, but they have not arrived yet. It is not possible for a helicopter to land in the area."

Nepal's recent air crashes

March 2015: Lucky escape for passengers after plane skids off runway in fog in Kathmandu

February 2014: Bodies of all 18 people recovered after small plane crashes in western Nepal

September 2012: Plane heading for Everest region crashes on the outskirts of Kathmandu, killing all 19 on board

May 2012: Fifteen people die when plane carrying Indian pilgrims crashes in northern Nepal

September 2010: Sight-seeing flight crashes into a hillside near Kathmandu

September 2006: All 24 people on board a WWF helicopter die when it crashes in eastern Nepal

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Tara Air uses Twin Otters and other planes on its routes in Nepal (file photo)

Pokhara is a resort town some 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu. Jomsom, a short distance further north, is the starting point for many people trekking in the Himalayas.

Nepal has a limited road network and many areas are accessible only on foot or by air.

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.

Most accidents have been attributed to bad weather, inexperienced pilots and inadequate maintenance.

In 2013, the European Union banned all Nepalese airlines from flying to its territory for safety reasons.