Official: Congo plane crashes; more than 50 dead

AP News
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Posted: Jul 08, 2011 5:27 PM
Official: Congo plane crashes; more than 50 dead

A plane crashed in a thunderstorm as it was attempting to land in the Congo Friday, killing at least 48 people, and leaving a dozen or more buried in the wreckage. 53 passengers survived.

"I confirm the crash of one of our planes," said Stavros Papaioannou, the chairman and CEO of Hewa Bora Airways told The Associated Press by telephone. "There are already 46 bodies at the morgue, and another two that just died in the hospital."

He added that a "dozen or more" people were still stuck inside the plane, which was heading from the giant Central African nation's capital to Kisangani in the country's northeast.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said the plane went down in bad weather a few yards (meters) from Kisangani airport. "It was due to the thunder," he said. "There are around 50 dead and 53 survivors, as well as a dozen people still unaccounted for."

Hewa Bora, which means "Fresh Air" in Swahili, has a history of crashes. In April 2008, one of their DC-9s rammed into a bustling market after failing to lift off from Goma's airport, killing at least 40 people _ most of them on the ground.

A few months later in September, a Hewa Bora plane carrying 17 people went down in inclement weather killing all on board.

Congo has one of the worst air safety records in the world. Few passable roads traverse the country after decades of war and corrupt rule, forcing the country's deeply impoverished people to rely on ill-maintained planes and boats to move around.