Latin America & Caribbean

Chile search teams battle adverse conditions in hunt for plane

Chilean Defence Minister Alberto Espina speaks during a news conference at the Chabunco Military base in Punta Arenas, Chile Image copyright AFP
Image caption Defence Minister Alberto Espina said high waves and strong winds made the search difficult

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has told his defence minister and the head of the air force to "do everything we can " for an air force plane that went missing en route to the Antarctic.

The C-130 was carrying 38 people on board when operators lost contact at 18:13 local time (21:13 GMT) on Monday.

Defence Minister Alberto Espina said conditions on Tuesday had been "very adverse".

The plane's last location was within the Drake Passage.

The Chilean air force released a map of the plane's flight path and a timeline showing it had been due to land at 19:17 at its Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva base in the Antarctic.

Image copyright EPA

An investigation has been launched into its disappearance. Mr Espina said the two pilots on board were "experienced".

"It's very important to know what happened," he said. "There will be no limits to what we'll do to find out and to locate the plane."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The C-130 is used to transport people and goods to the base in Antarctica

Five-metre waves (16ft) and poor visibility hampered the search on Tuesday but Chile's meteorological service has forecast better conditions for Wednesday.

Argentina, Brazil, the UK and Uruguay have sent planes to help with the search while the US and Israel are providing satellite images. Two Chilean navy frigates are also combing the area.

Who was on board?

Three of the passengers were Chilean soldiers, two were civilians employed by engineering and construction firm Inproser going to carry out work on the military base, one was a student and the remaining 15 passengers were members of the air force, an official said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Relatives of those on board have been awaiting news at Cerrillos air force base

Ignacio Parada had been studying civil chemical engineering at Magallanes University and was headed to the Antarctic base for an internship. His professors described the 24-year-old as "an excellent student". He was particularly interested in renewable energy, he said in an interview he gave to the university recently.

Inproser employees Leonel Cabrera and Jacob Pizarro were going to carry out work on the military base.

The three soldiers who boarded the Hercules plane on Monday were Col Christian Astorquiza, Lt Col Oscar Saavedra and Maj Gen Daniel Ortiz.

There was only one woman on board: 37-year-old geographer Claudia Manzo joined the air force in 2008 and was passionate about remote sensing - obtaining information about areas from a distance by aircraft or satellites.

Also among those travelling to the base were two brothers, Luis and Jeremías Mancilla. Jeremías, 27, had been hired by the air force to carry out work on the electrical circuits on the base. His older brother Luis is sergeant in the air force.

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