Rescuers search for Chilean plane missing near Antarctica

Punta Arenas, Chile, Dec 10 (AFP/APP): Rescue planes and ships on Tuesday searched the open sea between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica for a Chilean Air Force plane that went missing with 38 people aboard.

The C-130 Hercules cargo plane vanished after departing an airbase in the southern city of Punta Arenas Monday at 4:55 pm (19:55 GMT) en route to Chile’s Antarctic base of Eduardo Frei, officials said.

Contact was lost with the plane at 6:13 pm (2130 GMT), the Chilean Air Force said, adding that the plane had enough fuel to remain in the air for several hours beyond that time.

But seven hours after losing communication officials declared that the plane had crashed.

The airplane pilot may have carried out an emergency ocean landing, said Eduardo Mosqueira, commander of the Fourth Brigade based in Punta Arenas, early Tuesday.

“All national and international air and maritime means available in the area are continuing the search” for survivors, the air force said in a statement Tuesday.

Airplanes and ships from Uruguay, Argentina and Chile had joined in the search, officials said.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera cancelled his scheduled trip to Buenos Aires on Tuesday for the inauguration of Argentina’s new president Alberto Fernandez to monitor rescue operations from the capital Santiago, government spokeswoman Karla Rubilar said.

He initially said that he would travel to Punta Arenas.

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