BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (AP) — A cargo plane owned by a private company crashed Friday near the airport in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, killing at least three people, officials said.
The Soviet-made Ilyushin-76 belonged to Trans Air Congo and appeared to be transporting merchandise, not people, said an aviation official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The plane was coming from Congo's second-largest city, Pointe Noire, and tried to land during heavy rain, he said.
Ambulances rushed to the scene in the Makazou neighborhood, located near the airport, but emergency workers were hampered by the lack of light in this capital, which like so many in Africa has a chronic shortage of electricity.
"At the moment, my team is having a hard time searching for survivors in order to find the victims of the crash because there is no light and also because of the rain," Congolese Red Cross head Albert Mberi said.
He said that realistically, they will only be able to launch a proper search Saturday, when the sun comes up.
Reporters at the scene fought through a wall of smoke. Despite the darkness, they could make out the smoldering remains of the plane, including what looked like the left wing of the aircraft. A little bit further on, emergency workers identified the body of the plane's Ukrainian pilot, and covered the corpse in a blanket.
Firefighters were trying to extinguish the blaze of a part of the plane that had fallen into a ravine. They were using their truck lights to try to illuminate the scene of the crash. Although the plane was carrying merchandise, emergency workers fear that there could be more people on board.
Because of the state of the road connecting Pointe Noire to Brazzaville, many traders prefer to fly the roughly 400 kilometers (250 miles).
Africa has some of the worst air safety records in the world. In June, a commercial jetliner crashed in Lagos, Nigeria, killing 153 people, just a few days after a cargo plane clipped a bus in neighboring Ghana, killing 10.