A small plane with 21 people on board has gone missing while flying in a mountainous area in Nepal.

The plane lost contact minutes after taking off from Pokhara – a resort town west of Kathmandu.

Officials said it was heading north on a short 20-minute flight to Jomsom, the starting point for trekkers going into the mountains.

t is feared the plane crashed after taking off in poor visibility.

Rescue helicopters have been deployed to search for the Twin Otter aircraft, which is operated by domestic airline Tara Air.

No trace of the plane has been reported so far, according to one Pokhara airport official.

Among the 18 passengers and three crew members are two foreign citizens – one from China and one from Kuwait.

The remaining passengers are Nepalese, two of them children.

No British citizens are thought to have been on board.

Jomsom’s police chief said rescue efforts are focused on the village of Rupshe, where residents have reported hearing a large explosion, however poor weather conditions are understood to be hindering the search.

Nepal, which is still reeling from last April’s devastating earthquake, has suffered a number of air disasters in recent years.

Most have been blamed on inadequate maintenance and inexperienced pilots.