A Chilean Air Force plane en route to Antarctica with 38 people on board disappeared on Monday, and officials believe the aircraft crashed.
A rescue team has been deployed in search of the C130 Hercules, which took off from the city of Punta Arenas and was transporting personnel to a base in the southernmost continent to work on logistical tasks in the maintenance of a floating fuel-supply pipeline, the Guardian reports.
The plane, which was carrying 21 passengers and 17 crew members, lost radio contact at about 6:13 p.m., a little more than an hour after taking off.
Seven hours after losing communication with the aircraft, officials declared the plane had crashed.
According to Eduardo Mosqueira, commander of the Fourth Brigade based in Punta Arenas, the plane had enough fuel to be in the air for several hours longer. He believes the pilot, who was referred to as “experienced,” made an emergency water landing.
The aircraft disappeared in Drake’s Passage, an ocean of ice sheets off the edge of South America that is known for its freezing temperatures and harsh storms.
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera cancelled a trip to Argentina to attend the swearing-in ceremony of President-elect Alberto Fernández in order to join military personnel at the Cerrillos Air Base in Santiago, the capital, that are monitoring the search.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the 38 crew members and passengers of the FACh (Air Force) C-130 plane,” Piñera said on Twitter.
Both national and international air and maritime officials are looking for the missing aircraft and its passengers. In addition to Chile, ships and aircrafts from Uruguay and Argentina have also joined the search.
“With the help of many we are making every effort humanly possible in the search operation for the plane,” Piñera said.