Rescuers search Malawi's dense forest for vice president's missing plane

Malawi's president said on Tuesday that the country's vice president had died in a plane crash the day before, following a massive search and rescue operation.

The plane went missing on Monday morning, prompting authorities to launch a massive search operation to rescue Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine other passengers on board.

President Lazarus Chakwera said in an address to the nation on Tuesday that the wreckage of the plane had been found and there were no survivors.

“Something went horribly wrong on that flight,” Mr. Chakwera said.

He described Mr Chilima, 51, as a “good man” who had “made outstanding contributions to the country”.

Details about the other victims are not yet known.

The Malawian military plane carrying Mr Chilima and nine others took off from the capital, Lilongwe, at 9:17am on Monday. The flight was bound for Mzuzu and took less than an hour, according to the government.

Chakwera said in a televised address late Monday that the plane was unable to land due to poor visibility caused by bad weather. The pilot was given instructions to turn back, but minutes later the plane disappeared from radar.

Malawian authorities launched a massive rescue operation overnight in the Chikangawa forest, an uninhabited protected area covering about 443 square miles.

Nearly 200 soldiers were involved in the search and rescue effort, but thick fog hampered the effort, Malawian Defense Force General Paul Phiri said Tuesday morning. Police, park rangers and civil aviation department employees were also involved, he told a news conference.

Malawian authorities have also sought assistance from other governments. The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe said it had loaned a C-12 aircraft to assist in the search, while Mr. Chakwera said he had sought technical support from neighboring countries as well as Britain, Norway and Israel. On Tuesday morning, the Malawi Red Cross joined the search.

এছাড়াও পড়ুন  Local police and RCMP arrest 21 men in two-day Brandon prostitution raid - Winnipeg | Globalnews.ca

Mr Chilima had been expected to run for president in the 2025 election.

He entered Malawi politics a decade ago, giving up his job as head of one of the country's largest telecommunications companies and successfully contested the 2014 presidential election as Peter Mutharika's running mate.

In 2019, the two fell out, with Chilima accusing Mutharika of corruption and forming his own party, the United Movement for Change.

Chakwera and Chilima were once political rivals but formed an alliance after losing an election tainted by fraud that year. Both candidates successfully challenged the results and won a run-off on the same ballot paper in 2020 after a judicial panel ruled in their favor.

Mr Chilima was arrested by the country’s anti-corruption bureau in late 2022 for allegedly accepting kickbacks from a businessman in exchange for government contracts. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Malawian authorities dropped the case and all charges against Mr Chilima last month, but the scandal still tarnished his image as a politician who swore to weed out corruption.

Mr Chilima was born in Ncheu district in central Malawi. He studied economics at the University of Malawi and earned a doctorate in knowledge management from the University of Bolton in the United Kingdom, according to his official profile. He is survived by his wife, Mary Chilima, and two children.

উৎস লিঙ্ক