Two Australians were among 18 people killed when a small plane crash-landed and burst into flames on a sloping runway near Mt Everest on Wednesday, airport officials said.

Australian officials said they had been informed that two Australians were on the flight.

Consular staff had contacted the family of one of the Australians, and were trying to reach the second family.

“The Australian embassy is raising with Nepalese authorities the Australian government’s willingness to assist in dealing with this tragic accident,” a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said.

Kathmandu airport general manager Mohan Adhikari said two Australians, 12 German tourists, and two Nepalese tourists were among those killed.

Two of the plane’s three Nepalese crew also died. The sole survivor is thought to be the pilot or copilot.

“There were 12 Germans and two Australians on the flight,” Kathmandu airport general manager Mohan Adhikari said.

He said the Yeti Airlines 19-seat Twin Otter had taken off from Kathmandu and crash-landed and caught fire as it tried to land in foggy weather on the sloping airstrip at Lukla Airport, about 60km from Mt Everest.

The wheels of the plane had snagged a security fence during landing, he said, adding that visibility was about 400 metres – just enough for the aircraft to land.

Just 20 metres wide and 550 metres long, the runway perches on a hillside at an angle of around 11 degrees.

Bad weather at the tiny airport – which is 2,757 metres above sea level – frequently halts operations.

“We are devastated to hear of this accident,” Ang Tsering Sherpa, the president of the Union of Asian Alpine Associations, told AFP.

“In the season there are up to 50 flights per day into Lukla so the pilots are very used to landing there.”

Security staff and local helpers took two hours to put out the fire in the wreckage, said Suraj Kunwar, a local journalist at the airport, 140km north-east of Kathmandu.

Hundreds of tourists and residents from Lukla gathered to watch the recovery operation, many in tears.

“Officials at the airport here have said that bad weather was the reason for the crash. There was heavy cloud when the accident occurred,” Kunwar said.

When the weather is clear, dozens of flights land daily at Lukla’s Tenzing-Hillary airport, the gateway to Nepal’s Everest region used by thousands of trekkers and mountaineers.

It takes just half an hour to fly from Kathmandu to the airport, which is set amid soaring mountains at an altitude of 2,800 metres.

Yeti is a privately-owned domestic airline founded in 1998 that prides itself on running a service to many far-flung destinations across Nepal.

It has previously provided essential transport links to national and international relief teams working in Nepal as well as carrying many tourists.

The tourism trade is a major foreign currency earner for impoverished Nepal and since the end of a civil war in 2006 between the country’s Maoists and the government, numbers of foreign visitors have increased.

This year around 500,000 tourists are expected, the highest number since 1999, with many coming to trek in the stunning Himalayan mountains that form Nepal’s northern border with Chinese-controlled Tibet.

The Everest Base Camp trek – where tourists fly into Lukla and walk for around two weeks – is one of the most popular routes.