Search intensifies for missing plane carrying Malawi VP

Malawi’s president declared on Monday that no resources are being spared in the search for a missing military aircraft carrying 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.

The aircraft, which departed just after 9:00 am (0700 GMT), was carrying 51-year-old Chilima and nine others when it failed to land due to adverse weather conditions, Chakwera revealed in a televised address.

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

The group was en route from the capital Lilongwe to Mzuzu, approximately 370 kilometres (230 miles) away, 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 president dismissed local media claims that search operations had been halted 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.

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

– International Support –

He mentioned that he had already reached out to several countries, including the US, Britain, Norway, and Israel, which offered support “in different capacities,” including the use of specialized technologies to expedite the search.

Chakwera noted that a telecommunication signal pinpointed the plane within a 10-kilometre radius of Riaply, a timber milling company located south of Mzuzu in the southern part of the nation.

Local media reports indicate that soldiers are searching for the aircraft using torches and on foot.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that eyewitnesses saw a plane crash into the forest earlier on Monday.

Chakwera has canceled a scheduled visit to the Bahamas.

First elected vice-president in 2014, Chilima is widely admired in Malawi, particularly among the youth, for his charismatic yet stern demeanor. However, in 2022, during his second term, he was stripped of his powers after being arrested and charged with graft in a bribery scandal involving a British-Malawian businessman. Last month, a Malawian court dropped the charges.

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