Plane carrying Malawi vice president reported missing

A plane carrying Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine other people has gone missing after it failed to make a scheduled landing on Monday, according to the presidential office.

The Malawi Defense Force Aircraft carrying Chilima and others left the capital of Lilongwe at 9:17 a.m. local time (3.17 a.m. ET), the presidential office and cabinet said in a statement.

The plane had been scheduled to land at the Mzuzu International Airport, about 380 km (240 miles) to the north of Lilongwe, but did not arrive and is no longer detectable by radar, according to authorities.

“All efforts by aviation authorities to make contact with the aircraft since it went off the radar have failed thus far,” the presidential statement read.

“As such, the commander of the Malawi Defense Force, General Valentino Phiri, has since informed His Excellency Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera of the incident, and the president has since canceled his scheduled departure for the Bahamas and ordered all regional and national agencies to conduct an immediate search and rescue operation to locate the whereabouts of the aircraft,” the statement added.

In an address Monday night, President Chakwera said air traffic control in Mzuzu had advised the aircraft not to attempt a landing due to “poor visibility” and bad weather, and to return to the capital Lilongwe.

Soon after, authorities lost contact with the aircraft, prompting a search and rescue operation, Chakwera said during the live broadcast on state TV channel MBC.

Signals from telecommunications towers reported the plane’s last known position to a 10-kilometre (6-mile) radius in a forest reserve, which has since become the area of focus for the search and rescue operation, Chakwera said.

Search and rescue operations “will continue until the plane is found,” he added.

“I know this is a heartbreaking situation. I know we are all frightened and concerned. I too am concerned,” Chakwera said. “But I want to assure you that I am sparing no available resource to find that plane. And I am holding on to every fiber of hope that we will find survivors.”

He said Malawi had contacted neighboring countries and the United States, Britain, Norway and the Israeli governments for support in the rescue efforts.

The US has offered a military C-12 aircraft to assist in the search, according to a statement from the US embassy in Malawi.

“The U.S. Embassy Lilongwe is deeply concerned by the news that the plane carrying Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima and nine others went missing yesterday morning,” the statement posted Tuesday on X said.

“We join President Chakwera in his prayers for the well-being of all those on board the Vice President’s plane,” the statement added.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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