Chile’s air force says one of its cargo planes crashed with 38 people on board after going missing for more than 12 hours.
And on Tuesday, it said that a rescue team was searching for possible survivors.
The Hercules C130 aircraft took off on Monday afternoon from the southern city of Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia and was heading to a base in Antarctica but operators lost contact with the plane little more than an hour later.
The Air Force said in a statement it had yet to find the military cargo plane or determine if there were any survivors but said it had concluded the plane must have crashed given the number of hours it had been missing.
The plane had been carrying 17 crew members and 21 passengers, the air force said, adding its rescue team was scouring the area “where it lost communication with the plane, with the goal of rescuing possible survivors”.
MISSING AIRCRAFT Chilean Air Force reporting it lost contact with one of their C130 Hercules aircraft enroute from Chabunco Air Base, Chile to Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, Antarctica. 38 people on board, 17 crew, 21 passengers. pic.twitter.com/iGK33vyKvB
— Tom Podolec Aviation (@TomPodolec) December 10, 2019
The region where the plane disappeared is a vast, largely untouched ocean wilderness of penguin-inhabited ice sheets off the edge of the South American continent.
The plane had been travelling to perform logistical support tasks for the maintenance of Chilean facilities at the Antarctic base, the air force said.
The personnel were to check on a floating fuel supply line and other equipment at the Chilean base.
The plane took off at 4.55pm on Monday (6.55am Tuesday, AEDT) from the southern city of Punta Arenas, which is more than 3000 kilometres from the capital of Santiago.
Contact was lost at 6.13pm, the statement said.
General Eduardo Mosqueira of the Fourth Air Brigade said the aircraft would have been about halfway to the Antarctic base when it lost contact. No emergency signals had been activated, he said.
He said the plane, whose pilot had extensive experience, had been scheduled to return on Monday night.