Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima and Nine Others Killed in Plane Crash

Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine other passengers have died in a plane crash, President Lazarus Chakwera announced on Tuesday.

The aircraft went missing after failing to land at Mzuzu International Airport, about 380 km (240 miles) north of the capital Lilongwe. President Chakwera, in an address to the nation, confirmed that the wreckage had been located.

“The search and rescue operation I ordered to find the missing plane carrying our vice president and nine others has been completed. The plane has been found, and I am deeply saddened to inform you that it has turned out to be a terrible tragedy,” Chakwera said.

He revealed that the aircraft was found “completely destroyed” near a hill in the Chikangawa Forest in northern Malawi, and added, “words cannot describe how heartbreaking this is.”

Chakwera paid tribute to his deputy, describing him as “a good man, a devoted father and husband, and a patriotic citizen who served his country with distinction.”

“His passing is a terrible loss to his wife, Mary, his family, his friends, his colleagues in the cabinet, and to all of us as a nation,” Chakwera said from the Malawian capital. The president also mourned the loss of the other passengers onboard.

Highlighting the tragic nature of the accident, Chakwera mentioned that he had previously traveled on the same aircraft. “Yet despite the track record of the aircraft and the experience of the crew, something terrible went wrong with that aircraft on its flight back to Lilongwe,” he added.

On Monday evening, the president informed journalists that air traffic control had advised the vice president’s plane against landing due to poor visibility and recommended turning back to the capital. Shortly after, authorities lost contact with the aircraft and initiated a search operation.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Malawi Defence Force announced it had deployed drones and at least 200 soldiers to search for the plane in the Chikangawa Forest reserve, where signals of its whereabouts were last received. Force Commander Paul Valentino Phiri stated that rescue operations were delayed by bad weather conditions.

President Chakwera assured that the vice president and the other nine victims would be laid to rest in “a dignified manner,” with efforts already underway to transport their remains to the capital.

Chilima, 51, had returned to Malawi on June 6 after attending the Korea-Africa Summit in Seoul. He had first served as deputy to former President Peter Mutharika from 2014 to 2019 before being sworn in as vice president again in 2020. An economist, Chilima previously headed Airtel Malawi, becoming the first Malawian to lead the telecommunications company.

“I consider it one of the greatest honors of my life to have had him as my deputy and counselor for the past four years,” President Chakwera said.

Chilima is survived by his wife Mary and two children.

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