Congo plane crash kills 79


A DC-9 plane carrying 85 people crashed into a crowded neighborhood in the eastern Congo town Goma on Tuesday, and only six survivors have been found so far, government officials said.


Officials said they had no information on casualties among residents of the area.


Julien Mpaluku, the governor of the province, said there were 79 passengers onboard and six crew members.


“We have already picked up many bodies – dozens of bodies. There are a lot of flames, which makes it difficult to know if the bodies we are picking up are those of passengers of the plane or else passers-by or people that lived in the area where the plane crashed,” Mpaluku said.


The plane faltered shortly after takeoff and plummeted into the residential neighborhood of Birere, located just beyond the runway, the governor said. The runway used to continue into the neighborhood, but was partially blocked by lava from a 2001 volcanic eruption in Goma, a town located 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) east of the capital, Kinshasa.


“The plane appears to have missed its takeoff and crashed in a populated neighborhood,” said Mpaluku.


Among the survivors is one of the pilots, he said.


The DC-9 is owned by Hewa Bora, a private airline based in the country, Mpaluku said. It was headed to Kinshasa, Congo’s capital, said Gauthier Iloko, the second-in-command at the Goma airport.


Just last Friday, the European Union added Hewa Bora Airways to its blacklist of airlines banned from flying in the EU, without specifying a reason.


On Tuesday, European Union spokesman Michele Cercone said she had no information on Hewa Bora specifically but she said that all airlines based in the Democratic Republic of Congo are banned from EU air space.


“That is because there is a general lack of effective control by the civil aviation authorities there to monitor and maintain minimum technical standards” for airplanes, Cercone said.


The EU’s current list of banned airlines shows 50 airlines based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including Hewa Bora.


Cercone said that until a few weeks ago one Hewa Bora plane was allowed to fly to Europe under a special exemption deal, but that has expired. (AP)