June 23, 2024

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The plane carrying the Vice President of Malawi is missing

The plane carrying the Vice President of Malawi is missing

The Malawi government said on Monday that a search is underway for the missing plane carrying the vice president of the southeast African nation of Malawi and nine other people.

Vice President Saulos Chilima was traveling on a Malawi Defense Forces plane that took off at 9:17 a.m. on Monday from the capital, Lilongwe. But she missed the scheduled landing at an airport in the north of the country, less than an hour away by plane.

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera said in a televised speech that the plane was unable to land due to poor visibility due to bad weather conditions. The pilot was instructed to return, but within minutes the plane disappeared from radar and aviation authorities were unable to contact it.

“I know this is a heartbreaking situation,” Mr. Chakwera said at a late news conference. “I know we’re all scared and worried.”

The government said in a statement that the president launched a search and rescue operation that included national and regional agencies. By the afternoon, rescuers had narrowed down the potential crash site to a six-mile radius.

As darkness fell, army and police officers continued the search in vehicles and on foot, but struggled to comb through the dense forests of northern Malawi, local media reported. Mr Chakwera said despite these challenges, the search would continue until the plane was found.

His government also reached out to neighboring countries in southern Africa for assistance. He added that they are working with officials from the United States, Britain, Norway and Israel who can provide technological support.

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The Vice President was on his way to attend the funeral of the country’s former Attorney General, Ralph Kasambara.

Mr Chilima, 51, was a communications executive before entering Malawi’s political scene a decade ago. In late 2022, he was embroiled in a corruption scandal and was arrested by the country’s anti-corruption bureau on charges of receiving bribes from a businessman in exchange for government contracts.

He denied any wrongdoing, but the accusations tarnished the reputation of the government, which had pledged to clean up corruption in one of Africa’s poorest countries. Last month, authorities in Malawi dropped the case and withdrew all charges against Mr Chilima.

He was expected to launch a bid for Malawi’s presidency in the 2025 elections.

Mr. Chakwera and Mr. Chilima, political rivals, formed a coalition in 2019 after losing an election marred by irregularities. Both candidates successfully appealed the result, and after a judicial panel ruled in their favor, the two men won a second vote later in 2020 on the same ticket.