A small aircraft with 21 people on board has gone missing in a mountainous region in Nepal. The Tara Air plane left the western town of Pokhara on Wednesday morning and was scheduled to land in the town of Jomsom.

Tara Air spokesperson Bhim Raj Rai informed, “A plane that took off from Pokhara for Jomsom this morning is out of contact…There are 18 passengers, including two foreigners, and three crew members, on board.”

The total flight time was 19 minutes. However, no contact with the aircraft could be established 8 minutes after takeoff, reported CNN. The passengers included two Chinese and one Kuwaiti. Rai informed that when the plane took off the weather was clear. He also said that the Twin Otter plane was new and imported from Canada last year. The search operation is on-going with an army helicopter and two private helicopters deployed in the search.

Harihari Yogi, the police chief at Jomsom, said that local villagers reported that they heard a loud explosion near the Rupshe village. Attempts are also made to reach the location.

Airport official Yogendra Kuwar confirmed that there is no landing strips between the two airport which implies that the aircraft has crashed.

Jomsom is a popular destination in the Himalaya. It is situated in 225 km(360 miles) west of Kathmandu. It is popular among foreign tourists visiting Mount Annapurna and Mustang region for trekking. It is also a significant destination for Hindu pilgrims visiting Muktinath Temple.

Nepal which is devastated by an earthquake last year April has also witnessed numerous air disasters in recent years, reported NDTV. Most of these disasters are accredited to factors like inexperienced pilots, inadequate maintenance and pitiable management. Nepal’s aviation sector faced backlash from international authorities. The European Union also banned all aircraft from Nepal.

The country has many tourist destination and can boost its tourism  if the aviation sector improves. Recently, reports were there that a Dutch tourist survived tiger attack in the country. The tourist guide’s prudence saved the man’s life.