Chile expands search over frigid sea near Antarctica for crashed plane

Chile expands search over frigid sea near Antarctica for crashed plane

People react inside an air force base in Santiago
People react inside an air force base in Santiago, Chile Dec 10, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Pablo Sanhueza)

SANTIAGO: The Chilean military sent fighter jets early on Wednesday (Dec 11) in an expansion of its search for an airforce cargo plane that crashed with 38 people aboard over a remote stretch of frigid sea between South America and the Antarctic.

The Hercules C-130 cargo plane disappeared shortly after taking off late on Monday from the southern city of Punta Arenas. The Air Force concluded the aircraft must have crashed early the next morning, given the number of hours it had been missing.

The cause of the crash was not known and officials acknowledged the chances of finding survivors were slim.

Large rolling waves in the icy Drake Passage and low clouds had complicated the search on Tuesday, authorities said.

Airforce general Eduardo Mosqueira, who leads the search effort, told reporters early on Wednesday that the search area would be expanded for at least the next six days.

"We could add four days and bring this to 10 days, but after that we would need to decide whether or not to continue," Mosqueira said.

The flight appeared routine until the moment it disappeared, Mosqueira said.

The region where the plane disappeared is a vast, largely untouched ocean wilderness of penguin-inhabited ice sheets off the edge of the South American continent with depths of 3,500m.

The military was using sonar-enabled Navy ships to detect irregularities at depth, and that it had established quadrangles to help organise the search, Mosqueira said. Ships from Argentina and Brazil were assisting, he said.

Source: Reuters/nr

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