An aircraft with Malawi’s vice-president, Saulos Chilima, and nine others onboard has gone missing, the president’s office said in a statement on Monday evening.

The Malawi defence forces aircraft “went off the radar” after it left the capital Lilongwe at 9.17am local time (0817 BST) and failed to land in Mzuzu, almost 300km (185 miles) north, at its scheduled time of 10.02am.

“All efforts by aviation authorities to make contact with the aircraft since it went off the radar have failed thus far,” said the statement, signed by Colleen Zamba, secretary to Malawi’s president. The statement did not specify the type of aircraft.

The president, Lazarus Chakwera, ordered a search and rescue operation and cancelled a planned visit to the Bahamas.

Chilima, 51, had been due to attend the funeral of Ralph Kasambara, a former minister of justice and attorney general, in the village of Chijere, east of Mzuzu.

Kasambara, 55, was found dead after suffering heart failure last Friday, according to a government Facebook post.

Malawi is experiencing heavy rains in some parts of the country, especially the north.

Chilima has been the southern African country’s vice-president since 2014. He previously led the mobile network Airtel Malawi, as well as working at Unilever, Coca-Cola and Carlsberg, according to his profile on the government’s website.

Chilima is married and has two children. He received a PhD in knowledge management from the University of Bolton, according to the government website.

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