Rescuers Comb Dense Forest in Malawi for Vice President’s Missing Plane - The World News

Rescuers Comb Dense Forest in Malawi for Vice President’s Missing Plane

Rescuers combed through dense forest in northern Malawi for a second day on Tuesday, searching for an aircraft carrying the country’s vice president, Saulos Chilima, that disappeared in bad weather.

The Malawian military aircraft carrying Mr. Chilima and nine others took off at 9:17 a.m. on Monday from the capital, Lilongwe. It was bound for Mzuzu, less than an hour’s flight away, according to the government.

The plane was unable to land because of poor visibility caused by bad weather, President Lazarus Chakwera said in a televised address late on Monday. The pilot was instructed to turn back, but within minutes, the aircraft disappeared from radar.

The Malawian authorities began a massive rescue operation that continued through the night in the Chikangawa forest, an uninhabited reserve that covers roughly 443 square miles.

On Tuesday morning, Gen. Paul Phiri of the Malawi Defense Force said that nearly 200 soldiers were involved in the search, which has been hindered by thick fog. Police officers, park rangers and Civil Aviation Authority employees were also participating in the effort, he said at a news conference.

“Our troops were on the ground throughout the night and despite these challenges they are soldiering on,” General Phiri said.

Malawi’s authorities have also turned to other governments for assistance. The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe said it had lent a C-12 aircraft to aid in the search, while Mr. Chakwera said he had asked neighboring countries, along with Britain, Norway and Israel, for technological support. On Tuesday morning, the Malawi Red Cross joined the search effort.

Mr. Chilima, 51, is expected to run for president in the 2025 election.

He entered Malawi’s political scene a decade ago, leaving his role as head of one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies in a successful campaign for office in the presidential elections as the running mate for Peter Mutharika in 2014.

The two had a falling out in 2019, with Mr. Chilima accusing Mr. Mutharika of corruption and going on to start his own political party, the United Transformation Movement.

Once political rivals, Mr. Chakwera and Mr. Chilima formed a coalition that year after losing an election marred by irregularities. The two candidates successfully challenged the result, and, after a judicial panel ruled in their favor, the two men won a second vote that was carried out in 2020 on the same ticket.

In late 2022, Mr. Chilima was arrested by the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau over accusations that he received kickbacks from a businessman in exchange for government contracts. He denied any wrongdoing.

The Malawian authorities abandoned the case and withdrew all charges against Mr. Chilima last month, but the scandal has nevertheless tarnished his image as a politician who had sworn to clean up corruption.

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