Ananda Prasad Pokharel said the Twin Otter turboprop aircraft had been found in the western district of Myagdi on Wednesday and bodies could be seen scattered around it.

Rescue teams in Nepal have found the burnt-out wreckage of a passenger plane that went missing in a remote mountainous area with 23 people onboard, the aviation minister said.

“The wreckage of the plane was found in a completely burnt state in Solighopte in Myagdi district,” said Pokharel, minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation.

“The team there say that the bodies are scattered and it is not possible to identify anyone right now. More security agencies are being deployed and we are trying to get more information.”

The army had deployed helicopters and soldiers to search Myagdi, a mountainous district about 160 miles (220km) west of Kathmandu, after locals reported seeing possible wreckage of the Tara Air plane.

The airline said the plane was carrying three crew and 20 passengers, one a Chinese and one a Kuwaiti national, revising an earlier figure of 18 passengers.

All the others were from Nepal and two of them were children.

The plane lost contact with air traffic control eight minutes after it left the western town of Pokhara on its way to Jomsom on Wednesday morning.

The police chief at Jomsom, Harihari Yogi, said they had reports from local villagers of hearing a loud explosion near the small village of Rupshe and attempts were being made to reach it.

Jomsom, in the Himalayas, is about 20 minutes’ flight from Pokhara. It is popular with foreign tourists visiting the Mount Annapurna and Mustang region for trekking, and with Hindu pilgrims visiting the Muktinath temple.

Airport official Yogendra Kuwar said there were no landing strips between the two airports, and that the plane was believed to have crashed.

Nepal, which is still reeling from a devastating earthquake last April, has suffered a number of air disasters in recent years, dealing a blow to its tourist industry.

Most have been attributed to inexperienced pilots, poor management and inadequate maintenance.

The country’s aviation sector has come under fire from international authorities and in 2013 the EU banned all Nepalese airlines from flying there.

Tara Air is a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, a privately owned domestic carrier founded in 1998, which runs a service to many remote destinations across Nepal.

It saw its last fatal accident in 2010 when a plane chartered by a group of Bhutanese tourists crashed into a mountainside in eastern Nepal.

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