The wreckage of a plane carrying 18 people that crashed into a hill in Nepal has been found and all the passengers are feared dead.
The state-run Nepal Airlines plane with 15 passengers and three crew members went missing over densely-forested hills, about 33 minutes after takeoff. It was flying from the capital Kathmandu to Jumla, about 250 miles to the west.
One of the passengers was believed to be Danish, while the others were locals, including a child and a politician from the ruling Nepali Congress party.
"The plane crashed into a hill, police have found its wreckage in a village, but no survivors," Bimlesh Lal Karna, chief air traffic controller at Kathmandu airport, told AFP.
"Most of the plane is completely broken into small pieces, no one could have survived the accident," he said.
The 43-year-old plane is presumed to have crashed owing to bad weather amid heavy downpour, common in the hilly regions of the country.
Nepalese authorities launched an aerial search operation in poor weather and visibility conditions. Since this proved difficult, about 150 Nepalese soldiers were dropped into the forests to scour the area for the aircraft and possible survivors.
The passengers' mobile signals helped locate the remains of the plane as many people on board had left their phones on.
"Some of the passengers' mobiles are still on, so we used the help of phone companies to get a rough idea of the area where the planes might have crashed," Karna said.
Last December, the European Union blacklisted all the country's airlines for failure to adhere to safety norms. About 13 private Nepalese airlines fly to over 50 destinations around the world, amidst challenges such as unpredictable weather and rough mountainous terrain.
Inadequate infrastructure, poorly maintained aircraft and airport and amateurish pilots have often been held responsible for the frequent crashes in the country.
The European Commission had also issued an advisory to EU citizens and travel agents to avoid boarding planes in Nepal.