Search teams in Nepal have been dispatched to a possible site where a missing plane carrying 22 people may have reportedly crashed and caught fire.
Local villagers in the northern part of Nepal said they spotted a plane on fire near the mouth of a river at the foot of the Himalayan mountain Manapathi, reported Reuters.
The Tara airlines plane, that had gone missing early Sunday morning, carried six foreign nationals including four Indians and two Germans.
“Ground search teams are proceeding toward that direction. It could be a fire by villagers or by cowherds. It could be anything,” Tara Air spokesperson Sudarshan Gartaula told Reuters, referring to the purpoted crash site.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said in a statement that the Nepal army and police is currently moving to the site for further assessment.
Officials deployed two private helicopters from Mustang and Pokhara to search for the missing plane but one reportedly returned to Jomsom due to bad weather without locating the plane.
The status of the missing aircraft and its passengers is yet to be determined.
Shortly after take off from Pokhara at 9.40am on Sunday morning, the 43-year-old plane lost contact with airport authorities, according to plane-tracking data from flightradar24.com cited by the Associated Press.
The plane transmitted its last signal at 9.52am, according to the data.
An earlier report by the local newspaper Republica said a helicopter carrying 10 Nepal army soldiers had landed on the bank of a river near the Narshang Monastery.
They narrowed down on the region after Nepal Telecom tracked down the cellphone of the airplane’s Captain Prabhakar Ghimire through the Global Positioning System (GPS) network, the report said.
“The cell phone of Captain Ghimire of the missing aircraft has been ringing and Nepal Army’s helicopter has landed in the possible accident area after tracking the captain’s phone from Nepal Telecom,” Prem Nath Thakur, general manager of the Tribhuvan International Airport, was quoted saying by the newspaper.
Planes on this route have to fly between mountains before landing in a valley. The weather in the region has been cloudy in the last few days with spells of rain.