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Malawi’s vice president, former first lady and 10 others killed in plane crash

Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima has been killed in a plane crash, the country’s president announced on Tuesday, after searchers found the plane’s wreckage in a misty forest.
The military plane carrying Chilima, 51, and nine others went missing on Monday after bad weather prevented it from landing in the northern city of Mzuzu and it was told to return to the capital, Lilongwe.

“Search and rescue teams have found the aircraft. There are no survivors and it is totally destroyed as all passengers on board were killed on impact,” Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera told the nation.

“Words cannot express the pain,” he said, describing the accident as a “terrible tragedy.”

Photos provided to AFP by members of the military rescue team show soldiers standing on a misty slope near rubble marked with the registration number of the Malawi Army Air Corps’ Dornier 228-202K aircraft.

Rescuers were searching misty forests south of Mzuzu on Tuesday after authorities found a tower from which the aircraft had last communicated before it went missing.

Earlier, Army Commander Gen. Paul Valentino Phiri said other countries, including Malawi’s neighbours, had been assisting in the search effort with helicopters, drones and other support.

The delegation left Lilongwe just after 9 a.m. (7 a.m. GMT) on Monday to attend the former minister’s funeral in Mzuzu, about 370 kilometres (230 miles) away.

Malawi’s former first lady, Shanile Zimbiri, was also on board.

Widely loved

Chakwera said he had been on the same plane before on a similar trip. He added that the crew had safely piloted the plane just hours before the accident.

“But despite the plane’s track record and the experience of the crew, something went terribly wrong with the plane on the flight back to Lilongwe and it crashed,” he said.

First elected vice president in 2014, Chilima was a charismatic but tough-talking figure who was widely loved in Malawi, especially among young people.
But in 2022, during his second term, Chi lima was stripped of his powers after being arrested and charged with corruption in a bribery scandal involving a British-Malawian businessman.

Last month, a Malawian court dropped the charges and he returned to public life.

“Chilima was a good man, a devoted father and husband, a patriotic citizen who served his country well and a fantastic vice president,” Chakwera said.

“Having him as my deputy and adviser over the past four years has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”

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