A C-130 Hercules transport plane belonging to Chile’s Air Force with 38 people on board has disappeared over Antarctica.
The aircraft took off from Punta Arenas and lost radio contact on its way to Chile's Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva base, on Antarctica's King George Island. The country operates the highest number of Antarctic bases, 9 units spread out over an area of 1.2 million sq km bordered by land claimed by the UK and Argentina.
The plane was carrying 17 crew members and 21 passengers, including three civilians. The crew were to perform logistical support tasks for the maintenance of Chilean facilities. They were to check on a floating fuel supply line and other equipment.
The Air force said it has assembled a "multidisciplinary search and rescue team" to locate the aircraft.
Air Force General Eduardo Mosqueira told local media that the plane did not activate any distress signal while flying to the Antarctic base.
“The C-130 Hercules plane, whose pilot had extensive experience, was scheduled to return Monday night. The aircraft may have been forced to land after running out of fuel,” Mosqueira said.
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said in a tweet that he was "dismayed" by the disappearance, and was monitoring the situation from the capital, Santiago.
"All national and foreign air and maritime means in the area are assisting with the search,” the president added.