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Faith Nyasuguta

Soldiers were searching the mountainous forest in northern Malawi after the aircraft carrying Vice-President Saulos Chilima (pictured above) went missing on Monday. The plane, which included former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, departed from the capital, Lilongwe, at 9:17 am and was expected to land at Mzuzu International Airport, approximately 370 km (230 miles) to the north, 45 minutes later.

In a live address on state TV channel MBC on Monday night, President Lazarus Chakwera reported that Mzuzu air traffic control had instructed the pilots not to attempt a landing due to bad weather and poor visibility. Shortly afterward, air traffic control lost contact with the aircraft, and it vanished from radar.

“I know this is a heartbreaking situation. I know we are all frightened and concerned. I too am concerned,” Chakwera said. “But I want to assure you that I am sparing no available resource to find that plane. And I am holding on to every fibre of hope that we will find survivors.”

Chakwera noted that the US, UK, Norway, and Israel had offered assistance in the search operation, providing specialized technologies that he hoped would expedite the search. He assured that the search would continue through the night, with authorities using telecommunications towers to track the plane’s last known position within a 10 km (six-mile) radius of one of the plantations surrounding Mzuzu, located in the Viphya mountain range area.

“I have given strict orders that the operation should continue until the plane is found,” Chakwera said. The incident led to the cancellation of the president’s planned visit to the Bahamas.

Chilima, 51, was scheduled to attend the funeral of Ralph Kasambara, a former minister of justice and attorney general, in the village of Chijere, east of Mzuzu. Kasambara, 55, was found dead last Friday, reportedly due to heart failure, according to a government Facebook post.

President Lazarus Chakwera /Courtesy/

Malawi is currently experiencing heavy rains, particularly in the northern regions, complicating search efforts.

Chilima has served as the vice-president of Malawi since 2014. Before his political career, he held leadership roles at mobile network Airtel Malawi and worked at Unilever, Coca-Cola, and Carlsberg, as per his government profile. He is married with two children and holds a PhD in knowledge management from the University of Bolton, according to the government website.

The disappearance has sparked widespread concern and uncertainty across Malawi. Many citizens are anxiously awaiting updates, hoping for positive news amidst the challenging search conditions. The situation indicates the inherent risks and unpredictability of air travel in adverse weather conditions and the importance of international cooperation in crisis response efforts.

President Chakwera’s call for unwavering search efforts reflects the nation’s commitment to finding the missing aircraft and bringing clarity to this distressing situation. The international support highlights the global solidarity in times of crisis, emphasizing the collective effort needed to address such emergencies.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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