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Plane Carrying Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima Missing, Search Efforts Underway in Chikangawa Forest

A plane carrying Malawi’s vice-president, Saulos Chilima, may have crashed in a forest in the north of the country, according to a senior military official. The aircraft, which was carrying Chilima and nine others, disappeared from airport radars on Monday morning while flying in bad weather.

The military plane was en route within the country when it vanished. Soldiers are currently searching Chikangawa Forest to locate the missing aircraft. Malawi Defence Force commander Paul Valentino Phiri stated in a press briefing on Tuesday that heavy fog has reduced visibility, complicating search efforts.

President Lazarus Chakwera has pledged to continue the search mission until the plane is found. In a Monday evening address, he assured Malawians, “I know that we are all frightened and concerned – I too am concerned. But I want to assure you that I am sparing no available resource to find that plane and I am holding onto every fibre of hope that we will find survivors.”

However, the United Transformation Movement (UTM), Dr. Chilima’s party, expressed disappointment with the search operation, alleging that it only commenced at 15:00 local time (14:00 GMT) despite the plane going missing at 10:00.

The vice-president and president, who come from different parties, formed an alliance during the 2020 elections. Dr. Chilima, 51, was traveling to represent the government at the burial of former government minister Ralph Kasambara. Former First Lady Shanil Dzimbiri was also on the flight, which took off from the capital, Lilongwe, and was supposed to land in Mzuzu but was turned back due to poor visibility.

President Chakwera has reached out to various countries, including the US, UK, Norway, and Israel, all of which have offered support in the search for the plane. Dr. Chilima, vice-president since 2014, is especially popular among the youth in Malawi. Although he faced allegations of accepting bribes in exchange for government contracts in 2022, the charges were dropped last month without explanation. Dr. Chilima is married with two children.


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