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Malawi announces state funeral and 21 days of mourning for vice president

Mary Chilima, the vice president’s wife, was among the mourners (AP)
Mary Chilima, the vice president’s wife, was among the mourners (AP)

Malawi’s government has said vice president Saulos Chilima will be honoured with a state funeral after his death in a plane crash along with eight other people.

President Lazarus Chakwera had already announced 21 days of national mourning on Tuesday, when the wreckage of the small military plane carrying Mr Chilima and a former first lady was discovered in a mountainous area in the country’s north.

Flags will fly at half-staff across the southern African nation during the period of mourning.

Mr Chakwera has appointed a ministerial committee to oversee preparations for Mr Chilima’s state funeral, the government said in a statement. No date was announced.

The President previously said that there were 10 people on the plane but the government now says that a total of nine were on board when it crashed.

Mourners shed tears at the airport
Mourners awaited the body of Mr Chilima, at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe (AP)

Everyone on board was killed on impact when the twin propellor aircraft went down in a hilly, forested area in bad weather, the President said.

The victims included former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, the ex-wife of former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi. Six passengers and three military crew members were killed.

The plane was carrying Mr Chilima and members of his staff on a short flight from the capital, Lilongwe, to the northern city of Mzuzu to attend a funeral of a former government minister when it went missing on Monday morning.

The President said that air traffic controllers had told the plane not to land in Mzuzu because of bad weather and poor visibility and to return to Lilongwe. Air traffic controllers then lost contact with the plane and it disappeared from radar.

Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and forest rangers searched for more than 24 hours before the wreckage was discovered in a forest plantation south of Mzuzu.

The remains of the victims were brought back to Lilongwe on a Zambian Air Force helicopter on Tuesday night, when officials and mourners including Mr Chakwera and Mr Chilima’s wife, Mary, gathered at an airport.

The bodies of Mr Chilima and the others were transported from the airport in ambulances as soldiers lined the tarmac and saluted.