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Plane carrying 21 people missing in Nepal mountains

A passenger plane carrying 21 people has gone missing in central Nepal. The Tara Air plane was on an 18-minute flight from Pokhara to Jomsom when it lost contact with the control tower.

According to the "Kathmandu Post," the aircraft disappeared from the radar 10 minutes after takeoff early Wednesday.

Tara Air spokesman Bhim Raj Rai confirmed the reports shortly after, saying that "18 passengers, including two foreigners, and three crew members were on board." The two foreigners were believed to be from Kuwait and China.

Officials said they feared that the plane had crashed over mountainous terrain while flying with poor visibility.

'No trace'

Jomson, 220 miles (350 kilometers) west of Kathmandu and an 18-minute flight from Pokhara, is a popular area for trekking in the Himalayas.

Pokhara airport official Yogendra Kunwar said two helicopters had been deployed on a search-and-rescue mission.

"There is no trace of the aircraft so far," Kunwar said.

Concerns over Nepal aviation

In 60 years, Nepal has

suffered more than 70 crashes

and more than 700 fatalities, leaving the country's aviation sector open to strong criticism from international authorities.

In December 2013, the European Union banned all Nepalese airlines from flying to destinations within the bloc.

Air crashes in recent years have been attributed to pilot inexperience, inadequate maintenance and poor management.

ksb/jil (AP, AFP, dpa)

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