A military plane with 38 persons on board has disappeared en route to Antarctica, Chile’s air force says in a statement.
The C-130 Hercules transport aircraft took off from Punta Arenas at 16:55 local time (19:55 GMT), and operators lost contact soon after 18:00 (21:00).
Among the missing are 17 crew members and 21 passengers, who were travelling to provide logistical support. Chile’s air force said a search and rescue operation is under way to recover the plane and those missing.
News agency EFE reports that three of those on board are civilians. Air Force General Eduardo Mosqueira told local media that the plane did not activate any distress signal while flying to Chile’s Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva base, on Antarctica’s King George Island. He said the plane, whose pilot had extensive experience, may have been forced to land after running out of fuel.
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said in a tweet that he was “dismayed” by the disappearance, and was monitoring the situation from the capital, Santiago. In a subsequent statement, he added that “all national and foreign air and maritime means in the area” were assisting with the search.
Chile controls over 1.2 million sq km (463,000 sq miles) of Antarctic territory, bordering land claimed by the UK and Argentina. Within this territory it operates nine bases – the most of any country in the world. (BBC)