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Chilean military transport plane with 38 people onboard declared ‘crashed’ after vanishing en route to Antarctica

Chilean military transport plane with 38 people onboard declared ‘crashed’ after vanishing en route to Antarctica
A search and rescue operation was launched after a Chilean military transport aircraft carrying 38 passengers and crew had gone missing, losing radio contact on its way to a base in Antarctica.

The aircraft is considered to have “crashed” because it would have run out of fuel by now and could not fly any longer, the Director of Operations of the Chilean Air Force, Brigadier General Francisco Torres told reporters.

But there is “always a possibility” that it has managed to land somewhere, he said, adding that the plane did not send any distress calls.

The C-130 Hercules transport craft took off the Chabunco Air Base in the city of Punta Arenas in Chile’s far south at 4:55pm local time on Monday, and completely went off the radar about an hour later. It was flying on a routine support and maintenance mission to the Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva Air Base in Antarctica, and had 38 people on board.

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President Sebastian Pinera declared a search and rescue operation with the focus on finding potential survivors. The whereabouts of the plane are still unknown.

The Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva Air Base is the largest of Chile’s four permanent installations on the icy continent, where the country claims a slice of territory covering the South Shetland Islands, the Antarctic Peninsula, and several other adjacent islands.

The base is supported by the tiny commune of Villa Las Estrellas, which has a population of about 150 in the summer – between October and February – and only 80 for the rest of the year.

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