A Chilean military plane with 38 people on board lost radio communication, while travelling to a base in Antarctica, the country’s air force said on 10 December.

Two ships, more than a dozen planes and three satellites were being used in the search, the air force said. However, given the number of hours it had been missing, it concluded it must have crashed.

“The chances are difficult but I think it would be profoundly wrong to lose heart at this moment when we are doing everything humanly possible and with all our energy and determination. The air force has provided a thorough investigation to clarify the facts with complete transparency.”, said defence minister Alberto Espina.

The C-130 Hercules plane took off on 9 December at 4:55pm local time from Punta Arenas to the Presidente Eduardo Frei Antarctic Base, and lost contact at 6:13pm. It carried 17 crew members and 21 passengers, including three civilians.

The personnel were flying to perform logistical support tasks for the maintenance of Chilean facilities in the Antarctic. The area where the plane went missing is known for severe weather conditions, but the air force said that the weather was good when the plane took off.