13 dead as cargo plane crashes in Congo

Sunday, August 26, 2007

An Antonov cargo plane has crashed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing 13 people on board.

The plane had just taken off from Kongolo, Katanga with a cargo of tin ore when the aircraft developed engine problems, causing the Russian pilot to attempt to return for an emergency landing. However, the plane instead crashed short of the runway, busting into flames.

Although 13 have been confirmed dead, the bodies two of whom have not been recovered, two people were rescued from the aircraft before it caught fire. The pair, one a young child and the other a man in his twenties, are being treated in a local hospital.

The plane had been destined for Goma, Kivu Province's capital city, carrying a cargo of around nine tonnes of cassiterite (tin oxide) and other minerals. Goma is one of Congo's main mineral transportation centres.

Air travel has a poor safety record in Africa. According to the Aviation Safety Network, last year Africa accounted for just 3% of all airliner flights, but also accounted for 18.5% of all fatal accidents in the commercial aviation sector. Mining flights in particular have caused safety concerns, with officials banning flights into Goma from Walikale, also in Kivu, in June. Prior to the ban, aircraft had been using a stretch of road as a temporary runway while a purpose-built one was being constructed.