Search for missing Malawian vice president continues

Malawian president Lazarus Chakwera has bashed media reports that he had called off a search and rescue operation around a defence force aircraft that went missing on Monday morning with the country’s vice president, Saulos Chilima, and nine others on board.

According to a media statement by the Malawian Office of the President and Cabinet, the plane went off the radar, prompting a race against time to locate and rescue those on board.

“I know that some media outlets had reported that the search and rescue operation has been suspended but this is false. Malawi Defence Force 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 in an address to his nation on Monday evening.

“I have also directed the MDF officials who are overseeing the operation to give you, everyone, regular updates on how the operation is going so that you can all be informed about the progress of establishing what happened to our loved ones,” Chakwera said.

He said at 07h05 on Monday morning the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) aircraft left Mzuzu airfield in northern Malawi and landed at Kamuzu International Airport at Lilongwe at 07h48 to carry the country’s vice president to Mzuzu.

Chilima was scheduled to attend the funeral of the country’s former attorney general and minister of justice Raphael Kasambara.

At 09h17 the aircraft departed Kamuzu International Airport with the vice president and nine other individuals on board.

“However, upon arrival at Mzuzu the pilot was unable to land the plane due to poor visibility occasioned by bad weather. Aviation authorities advised the aircraft to return to Lilongwe, but the authorities soon lost contact with the aircraft,” Chakwera said.

“The MDF commander contacted me immediately and I ordered him to effect a search and rescue operation and to give me a report within four hours. That report was given to me at 15h00 and by that time it had been established using signals from telecommunication towers in the area that the plane was located somewhere within a 10-kilometre radius which has since become the area of focus for the MDF search and rescue operation,” the president said.

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