Chile combs Antarctic for missing plane with 38 aboard

Punta Arenas: Search crews are combing the Antarctic for a Chilean military transport plane carrying 38 people that vanished en route to a base on the frozen continent and will tirelessly press ahead as the hunt gains widening international support, officials said Tuesday.

Gen Eduardo Mosqueira said Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and the United States had each lent planes to the search following Monday’s disappearance. At least 13 aircraft and several ships were scouring the area where the plane was believed to be when radio contact was lost. We’ll continue searching 24 hours a day, both night and day, with the resources at our disposal, Mosqueira told The Associated Press. Officials said the plane had taken off in favourable conditions Monday afternoon, though it was flying in an area notorious for rapidly changing conditions, with freezing temperatures and strong winds.

Seven hours after contact was cut off, the air force declared the plane a loss, though there was no sign of what happened to it. The C-130 Hercules carried 17 crew members and 21 passengers, including three civilians. They were en route to check on a floating fuel supply line and other equipment at the Chilean base. President Sebastian Piaera said via Twitter that he was with his defense and interior ministers at the air force headquarters monitoring developments. “My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the 38 crew members and passengers,” said Piaera, who cancelled a trip to attend Tuesday’s inauguration in Argentina of President Alberto Fernandez.

The three civilian passengers included a 24-year-old who was embarking on a research project and two employees of a private company. One passenger was a woman. The two pilots had extensive experience, according to the Chilean air force, which said that while the plane was built in 1978, it was in good condition. The air force said it flies this route monthly. The plane took off at Monday afternoon from the southern city of Punta Arenas, more than 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) from the capital of Santiago.