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POKHARA, Nepal: Nepalese rescuers on Monday pulled 14 bodies from the mutilated wreckage of a passenger plane that strewn down a mountainside and disappeared in the Himalayas with 22 people on board.
Air traffic control lost contact with Nepalese airline Tara Air’s Twin Otter plane shortly after takeoff from Pokhara in western Nepal on Sunday morning bound for Jomsom, a popular trekking destination.
Military and private company helicopters scoured the remote mountainous area throughout Sunday, aided by teams on foot, but called off the search as night fell because poor weather hampered the recovery operation at about 3,800 to 4,000 meters (12,500 to 13,000 ft) Above the sea level.
After the search resumed on Monday, the Army shared on social media a photo of aircraft parts and other debris littering a steep mountainside, including a wing with the clearly visible registration number 9N-AET.
On board were four Indians and two Germans, the rest Nepalese. There was no information about the cause of the crash.
The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed the plane “had an accident” at 4,420 meters (15,000 ft) in the Sanosware area of ​​Thasang rural township, Mustang district.
“So far 14 bodies have been recovered, the search for the rest continues. The weather is very bad but we were able to get a team to the crash site. No other flight was possible,” official spokesman Deo Chandra Lal Karn said.
Pokhara Airport spokesman Dev Raj Subedi said rescuers followed GPS, mobile and satellite signals to narrow the location.
Pradeep Gauchan, a local official, said the wreck was at an altitude of about 3,800 to 4,000 meters (12,500 to 13,000 ft) above sea level.
“It is very difficult to get there on foot. A team was dropped by helicopter near the area but it is currently cloudy so flights were not possible,” Gauchan said earlier in the day.
“Helicopters are on standby, waiting for the clouds to clear,” he said.
According to the Aviation Safety Network website, the plane was manufactured by Canadian company de Havilland and made its first flight more than 40 years ago in 1979.
Tara Air is a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, a privately owned domestic airline that serves many remote destinations throughout Nepal.
It suffered its last fatal accident on the same route in 2016, when a plane carrying 23 on board crashed into a mountainside in Myagdi district.
Nepal’s aviation industry has boomed in recent years, moving goods and people between hard-to-reach areas, as well as foreign trekkers and climbers.
But it has long been plagued by a lack of security due to inadequate training and maintenance.
The European Union has banned all Nepalese airlines from its airspace over safety concerns.
The Himalayan country also has some of the most remote and difficult airstrips in the world, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge to even the most accomplished pilot.
The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.
In March 2018, a US Bangla Airlines plane landed near the notoriously difficult Katmandu International Airport, skidded onto a soccer field and burst into flames.
Fifty-one people died and 20 miraculously escaped the burning debris, but sustained serious injuries.
That accident was Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu Airport.
Just two months earlier, a Thai Airways plane crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.

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