Hopes for rescue faded Tuesday after a Chilean air force transport plane with 38 people aboard vanished en route to Antarctica without sending an emergency signal.
Defense Minister Alberto Espina said the plane departed the southern city of Punta Arenas on Monday evening. Contact was lost about 80 minutes later, he said.
“The chances are difficult, but I think it would be profoundly wrong to lose heart at this moment,” Espina said Tuesday. “We are doing everything humanly possible.”
Families of the plane’s passengers and crew hugged and wept as they gathered at Cerrillos airbase in Santiago.
The air force said the plane, a U.S.-built C-130 Hercules, was about 450 miles into its 770-mile journey when it disappeared. The area, known as the Drake Passage, is an icy and often surly body of water near where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. Authorities said the flight began in good weather.
Four ships and 10 planes from Chile led the search, which drew planes and ships from Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Chilean President Sebastian Piñera assured his nation that “with the help of many,” the search would continue.
“I just spoke with President Jair Bolsonaro, who offered us all the help of Brazil in the search,” Piñera said on Twitter.
Piñera said he canceled plans to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration Tuesday.
Aboard the missing plane were 17 crew members and 21 passengers, including three civilians. The personnel were going to check on a floating fuel supply line and other equipment at a Chilean base in Antarctica.
“Antarctica is different,” said Gen. Eduardo Mosqueira of the 4th Air Brigade. “It’s hard to fly because of changing conditions.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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