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Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima Confirmed Dead in Plane Crash After Extensive Search

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Malawi's Vice President Saulos Chilima has been confirmed dead after the military plane he was on disappeared from radar and crashed. Extensive search operations involved international aid but found no survivors.

The wreckage of the missing plane carrying Malawi's Vice President, Saulos Chilima, was found on Tuesday, according to a military rescue team member who provided images to AFP. Unfortunately, all passengers on board were confirmed dead. The plane, a twin-engine Dornier 228-202K, disappeared from radar on Monday after being unable to land due to poor visibility.

President Lazarus Chakwera is anticipated to address the nation following this tragic incident. Saulos Chilima, a charismatic and popular political figure in Malawi, was first elected as vice president in 2014. He was on his way to attend a funeral and had departed from the capital, Lilongwe, on Monday morning. The plane was heading for Mzuzu, about 370 km northeast, but was directed to return to Lilongwe due to bad weather before communication was lost.

Chilima was not traveling alone; he was accompanied by nine others, including the former First Lady of Malawi, Shanil Dzimbiri (Muluzi). The president clarified that the disappearance occurred due to poor visibility, and authorities had advised the plane to return. However, contact with the plane was soon lost, as stated in a televised message by President Chakwera.

Despite claims by local media that search operations were halted as night approached, President Chakwera insisted that efforts continued. He even canceled his planned working visit to the Bahamas to oversee the search personally. Search operations persisted through the foggy conditions on Tuesday morning, focusing on an area near the last known signal from the vice president's phone.

Several countries, including neighboring nations, assisted in the search efforts by deploying drones and helicopters. The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe also offered the use of a C-12 military aircraft. Initial search efforts included soldiers combing through the Chikangawa forest based on unconfirmed reports of a plane crash in the area.

  • Chilima was suspended from his role in 2022 during his second term after being implicated in a corruption scandal involving a British-Malawian businessman. The judiciary eventually dropped the charges in May, allowing him to resume his official duties.
  • Malawian President Chakwera emphasized that all efforts had been made by aviation authorities to re-establish contact with the missing aircraft. He also appreciated the timely international support during the ongoing search and rescue operations.
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Refs: | Aljazeera | Le Parisien |

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