Aircraft carrying Malawi's Vice President goes missing

Saulos Chilima and nine others were onboard flight that disappeared from radar

Malawi's Vice President Saulos Chilima in 2020. AFP
Powered by automated translation

An aircraft with Malawi's Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine others onboard went missing on Monday, the president's office announced.

A search and rescue operation is under way after the aircraft, owned by the Defence Ministry, went off the radar on Monday morning, according to a statement on Monday night.

It left the capital of Lilongwe at 9.17am local time and was scheduled to arrive at Mzuzu International Airport in northern Malawi, at 10.02am.

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

President Lazarus Chakwera's office said efforts by aviation authorities to make contact with the aircraft since it went off the radar had failed.

Mr Chakwera cancelled a scheduled trip to the Bahamas after the incident.

The plane was unable to land at the airport due to poor visibility and was ordered to return to the capital, Mr he said in a televised address to the nation.

"I'm holding on to every fibre of hope that we'll find survivors," Mr Chakwera said, adding that the search area was concentrated around a 10km radius in a forest reserve.

"I have given strict orders that the operation should continue until the plane is found."

He said Malawi had contacted neighbouring countries, and the US, Britain, Norway and the Israeli governments, for support in the rescue efforts.

Some unverified media reports suggested the group was travelling in a helicopter to attend the funeral of lawyer Ralph Kasambara.

No other details were immediately available.

Mr Chilima has been Vice President since 2020.

In 2022, he was arrested on corruption charges, which were dropped by a Malawi court in May.

He previously served as minister for economic planning and development, among other posts.

The incident comes weeks after Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were killed in a helicopter crash, renewing scrutiny of the country's poor aviation record.

An overnight search-and-rescue operation was launched in western Iran before their bodies were recovered at the crash site.

Updated: June 11, 2024, 11:46 AM