New Delhi: An Air Force plane from Chile with 38 people on board that went missing late Monday on its way to Antarctica might have crashed, according to reports. Search and rescue operations are underway.

The C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, with 17 crew members and 21 passengers including three civilians, departed from Chabunco Air Base in Chile’s Punta Arenas at around 4:55 PM local time and lost radio contact with the base station at around 6:13 PM.

The Air Force in its statement said that the aircraft was headed to the President Eduardo Frei Montalva Air Base in Antarctica and was around 450 miles into its 770-mile journey when contact was lost, placing it within the Drake Passage.

The Drake Passage, a water body in the South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, is infamous for its treacherous weather conditions that have caused several mishaps in the past as well.

However, the Chilean Air Force said that the weather was good when the plane disappeared and it did not activate any distress signal. The Air Force further stated that the pilot might have been forced to touch down on water due to some unforeseen circumstances.

Following the incident, Chile President Sebastian Pinera said he was “dismayed” by the loss, and was monitoring the situation from the capital city, Santiago.

Notably, Chile controls over 1.2 million sq. km of Antarctic territory, bordering land claimed by the UK and Argentina. Within this territory, it operates nine bases – the most of any country in the world.