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Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima confirmed killed, plane wreckage found with no survivors

The plane carrying 51-year-old Vice President Saulos Chilima and former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri was found on Tuesday with no survivors. It went missing after taking off from the capital, Lilongwe, to the city of Mzuzu on Monday morning, leading to a frantic search for survivors.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 New Delhi Updated on: June 11, 2024 16:49 IST
Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima,left, and his wife Mary disembark from a plane upon his return
Image Source : AP Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima,left, and his wife Mary disembark from a plane upon his return from South Korea in Lillongwe, Sunday, June 9, 2024

The aeroplane carrying Malawi's Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima has been found with no survivors, according to President Lazarus Chakwera, confirming Chilima's death. Chilima, 51, was aboard a military aircraft with nine others that left Lilongwe, the capital, at 09:17 am (0717 GMT) on Monday, after which it suddenly went "off the radar", leading to a frantic search for survivors. 

The wreckage of the military plane carrying Chilima was located in a mountainous area in the north of the country after a search that lasted more than a day. There were no survivors of the crash, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said in a news briefing on Tuesday. Chakwera said the Malawi Defence Force commander informed him that the search and rescue operation has been completed and the plane was found, BBC reported.

"I'm deeply saddened, I'm sorry to inform you all that it has turn out to be a terrible tragedy. The search and rescue team has found the aircraft near a hill... they have found it completely destroyed with no survivors," Chakwera said. The aircraft, where former First Lady Shanzi Dzimbiri were also present, was found completely destroyed at the site.

Frantic search hampered by bad weather

Earlier, it was reported that the plane may have crashed in a dense forest, the military said on Tuesday. Top military official Paul Valentino Phiri told reporters that search and rescue operations had been hampered by foggy weather around the Chikangawa Forest which was affecting visibility. Seven passengers and three military crew members were on board. The president described the aircraft as a small, propeller driven plane operated by the Malawian armed forces. The tail number he provided shows it is a Dornier 228-type twin propeller plane that was delivered to the Malawian army in 1988, according to the ch-aviation website that tracks aircraft information.

Ongoing search and rescue operations have been hampered by foggy weather around the Chikangawa Forest , affecting visibility, according to top military official Paul Valentino Phiri. The plane had been scheduled to land at Mzuzu International Airport at 10:02 am (local time) but was unable to land due to poor visibility and was ordered to return to the capital, President Lazarus Chakwera said in a televised address to the nation on Monday. Malawi's information minister said the country had asked Angola's space agency for help finding the plane.

Who is Saulos Klaus Chilima?

Chilima, a business executive-turned-politician, was on his way to represent the government at the burial of former cabinet minister Ralph Kasambara, who died three days ago. He has been vice president since 2014. He was a candidate in the 2019 Malawian presidential election and finished third. That vote was won by incumbent Peter Mutharika but was annulled by Malawi's Constitutional Court because of irregularities. Chakwera finished second in that election.

Chilima then joined Chakwera's campaign as his running mate in an historic election rerun in 2020, when Chakwera was elected president. It was the first time in Africa that an election result that was overturned by a court resulted in a defeat for the sitting president. He was married to Mary Chilima, who was not among the passengers on the plane, and had two children.

The vice president had been facing corruption charges over allegations that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government contracts, but prosecutors dropped the charges last month. That led to criticism that Chakwera's administration was not taking a hard enough stance against graft. Chilima was arrested in late 2022 and made several court appearances, but the trial has yet to start. He has denied the allegations. 

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Plane carrying Malawi's Vice President, nine others, goes missing: Report

 

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