Search continues for Malawi VP's missing plane

Search continues for Malawi VP’s missing plane

/ 08:51 AM June 11, 2024

Search continues for Malawi VP's missing plane

(FILES) Saulos Klaus Chilima, Malawi’s incumbent Vice President and president for the United Transformation Movement (UTM), leaves the Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre on May 6, 2020. A military aircraft carrying Malawi’s vice president Saulos Chilima has been reported missing after it failed to make a landing on June 10, 2024, the government said. (Photo by AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP)

Lilongwe, Malawi — Malawi’s president on Monday said he was sparing no resources in a search operation for a missing military aircraft carrying the country’s vice president Saulos Chilima.

“I know that this is a heartbreaking situation… but I want to assure you that I am sparing no available resource to find that plane and I am holding on to every fibre of hope that we will find survivors,” president Lazarus Chakwera said.

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The plane, which took off just after 9 a.m. (0700 GMT), was carrying 51-year-old Chilima and nine others when it failed to land due to bad weather, according to the leader who was speaking in a televised address to the nation.

Malawi’s former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri (Muluzi) was also on board.

The group was travelling from the capital Lilongwe over 370 kilometers (230 miles) to the city of Mzuzu for the funeral of a former cabinet minister.

“Upon arrival in Mzuzu the pilot was unable to land the plane due to poor visibility occasioned by bad weather, and aviation authorities advised their aircraft to return to Lilongwe, but the authorities soon lost contact with the aircraft,” Chakwera said.

The head of state dismissed claims published by local media that search operations had been discontinued for the night.

Soldiers are “still on the ground carrying out the search and I have given strict orders that the operation should continue until the plane is found”, he said, adding that the army would give the public regular updates.

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Chakwera ordered regional and national forces to conduct an “immediate search and rescue operation” earlier in the day.

International support 

He said he had already contacted the governments of various countries including the US, Britain, Norway and Israel, who had all offered support “in different capacities”.

“Including the use of specialized technologies that will enhance capacity to find the plane sooner.”

Chakwera said that a telecommunication signal located the plane within a 10 kilometer radius of Riaply, a timber milling company in the poor southern African nation located south of Mzuzu.

Soldiers are said to be looking for the missing aircraft with torches and on foot, according to local media reports.

Various unconfirmed reports have circulated that eye witnesses saw a plane crashing into the forest earlier on Monday.

Chakwera has cancelled a visit to the Bahamas.

First elected vice-president in 2014, the charismatic yet stern-talking Chilima is widely loved in Malawi, particularly among the youth.

But in 2022 during his second stint in the job, Chilima was stripped of his powers after being arrested and charged with graft over a bribery scandal involving a British-Malawian businessman.

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Last month, a Malawian court dropped the charges.

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TAGS: Africa, Malawi

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