Plane Carrying Malawi’s Vice President Vanishes


An aircraft carrying Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima, 51, has gone missing after it left the capital Lilongwe, according to President Lazarus Chakwera.

The plane, which was carrying nine others, departed on Monday at 9:17 a.m. local time but failed to make its planned landing at Mzuzu International Airport. The trip was only intended to last about 45 minutes.

The plane nearly made it to its destination, but the pilot couldn’t land due to bad weather, Chakwera said in an address to the nation. Authorities advised the plane to turn around but didn’t hear from it again.

“The pilot was unable to land the plane due to poor visibility,” the president said. “Aviation authorities advised [the] aircraft to return to Lilongwe, but the authorities soon lost contact.”

The president canceled a planned departure to the Bahamas and ordered “all regional and national agencies” to conduct an “immediate search and rescue operation” to locate the aircraft.

Chakwera said Monday evening that the search and rescue operation had narrowed in on a specific zone.

“Soldiers are still on the ground carrying out the search, and I have given strict orders that the operation should continue until the plane is found,” Chakwera said.

“I know that this is a heartbreaking situation. 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.”

Chilima has served as vice president since 2014 and is married with two children, according to the government. He holds a Ph.D. in Knowledge Management from the University of Bolton and a Master’s degree in Economics. He previously led telecommunications company Airtel Malawi and worked at Unilever Malawi, Coca-Cola, and Carlsberg, the government said.

Chilima was supposed to attend the funeral of Ralph Kasambara, a former attorney general and minister of justice, who recently died following heart failure. Minister of Defense Harry Mkandawire spoke at the funeral in his place, according to the president’s office.

Kasambara was buried in his home village of Chijere on Monday.

A series of other aircraft emergencies in recent months has played havoc with the leaders and prominent figures of several other nations. A helicopter crash killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian last month. Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who ran the Russian mercenary group Wagner Group and was also known as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “chef,” was killed in a plane crash last August.

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