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Plane carrying Malawi vice president goes missing; search underway

A search is underway in Malawi after a plane carrying the country’s vice president and nine others went missing Monday morning amid tumultuous weather.

Soldiers have begun combing through a mountainous region in the East African country’s north, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera said during a televised address Monday, after a Malawi Defense Force aircraft carrying Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine others went missing on a flight from the nation’s capital, Lilongwe, to the city of Mzuzu, up north.

The flight departed at about 9:17 a.m. from Kamuzu International Airport and was headed for Mzuzu International Airport when aviation authorities warned the aircraft to turn around because of poor visibility. The authorities soon lost contact with the plane, which was “was unable to land due to poor visibility occasioned by bad weather,” Chakwera said in his address.

The vice president was on his way to attend the funeral of the former attorney general and minister of justice, Raphael Kasambara, who died June 7.


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

The president refuted media reports that the Malawi Defense Force had already ceased search operations, and he said that authorities were able to use telecommunication tower signals to identify a 10-kilometer radius around the area where the plane is thought to be located.

Chilima, 51, first took office as vice president in May 2014 after his career at multinational companies such as Coca-Cola and the telecommunications company Airtel helped buoy his entry into politics. He joined Chakwera’s campaign in an election rerun in 2020, which led to his reelection as vice president.

He was arrested in November 2022 on corruption charges after being accused of receiving money and gifts related to government-awarded contracts involving two private companies, which he has denied. Leading up to the arrests, Chakwera stripped Chilima of his vice-presidential duties in light of the accusations.

Malawi — a landlocked country bordering Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique — has a population of about 20 million people and has for years maintained a diplomatic and military relationship with the United States.

The United States, Britain, Norway and Israel have offered some form of support regarding the missing plane, including “specialized technologies” to help with the search, Chakwera said Monday.

The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe said it was “deeply concerned” by the news of the missing plane and that it has offered Malawi assistance in its search, including the use of a Defense C-13 aircraft.

“I ask you to pray for those who are on board and for their families,” Chakwera said. “But come what may, I assure you that God is with us and will see us through this dark time.”

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