Saulos Klaus Chilima, Malawi’s incumbent Vice President and president for the United Transformation Movement (UTM), leaves the Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre on May 6, 2020. - A military aircraft carrying Malawi's vice president Saulos Chilima has been reported missing after it failed to make a landing on June 10, 2024, the government said. Photo AFP

LILONGWE – A military aircraft carrying Malawi’s vice president Saulos Chilima has been reported missing after it failed to make a landing Monday morning, the government said.

“All efforts by aviation authorities to make contact with the aircraft since it went off the radar have failed thus far,” the government said in a statement.The plane, which took off just after 9:00 am (0700 GMT), was carrying 51-year-old Chilima and nine others.

The group was travelling from the capital Lilongwe over 370 kilometres (230 miles) to the city of Mzuzu for the funeral of a former cabinet minister.

President Lazarus Chakwera has ordered regional and national forces to conduct an “immediate search and rescue operation to locate the whereabouts of the aircraft”, the statement said.

Speaking to a South African television station on Monday evening, Malawi’s information minister Moses Kunkuyu said the government was awaiting further details on the incident from the army.

“At the moment we are keeping our fingers crossed and praying,” he said.

Soldiers are said to be looking for the missing aircraft with torches and on foot in the Chikangawa forest south of Mzuzu, according to local media reports.

Various unconfirmed reports have circulated that eye witnesses saw a plane crashing into the forest earlier Monday.

Chakwera, who was due to travel to the Bahamas for a working visit, has since cancelled his trip.

He is set to address the country in a televised speech at 11:00 pm local time.

In 2022, Chilima was stripped of his powers after being arrested and charged with graft over a bribery scandal involving a British-Malawian businessman.

Last month, a Malawian court dropped the charges. – Agency