KATHMANDU, Nepal, 24th February, 2016 (WAM) — A small plane with 23 people, including two foreigners, on board and flying in poor visibility over mountainous terrain in Nepal this morning is missing and officials fear it has crashed.

According to Associated Press, AP, airport official Yogendra Kuwar said that the plane was on an 18-minute flight on Wednesday, but lost contact after takeoff. He said there were no landing strips between the two airports the plane was flying between and it is believed to have crashed.

Helicopters were searching the route more than two hours after the plane was to have landed, but poor weather conditions are hampering their efforts, he said. The foreign passengers were from China and Kuwait, while the remaining were all Nepali nationals, including two children.

The plane had taken off from Pokhara, a resort town 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Kathmandu, and was heading north to Jomsom, the starting point for trekkers going into mountainous areas.

The police chief at Jomsom, Harihari Yogi, said they had reports from local villagers of a loud explosion near the small village of Rupshe and attempts were being made to reach there. The Twin Otter aircraft was operated by domestic Tara airlines, and only small planes can fly the route, which goes between mountains.

Jomson is popular for both foreign tourists visiting Mount Annapurna and the Mustang region for trekking, and for Hindu pilgrims visiting the Muktinath temple.

WAM/Moran