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DR Congo plane crash toll climbs

The wreckage of a plane in Goma, DR Congo, 16/04/08
Officials said most passengers escaped before the plane caught fire

At least 40 people have now been found dead amid the wreckage of a DC-9 jet that crashed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday.

Officials say there may well be more bodies lying in the rubble of buildings wiped out when the plane ploughed into the town of Goma.

Airline officials said most people on board survived. More than 100 people were treated for injuries, medics said.

The plane's flight recorders have been found and are awaiting analysis.

Several witnesses said the aircraft barely left the ground as it attempted to take off on Tuesday afternoon, but smashed through a wall and broke up as it hit shops and houses in the commercial district of Goma.

A former pilot, Dunia Sindani, who was among the passengers, told a local radio station that the plane appeared to have had a flat tyre.

Smoke was coming up through the floor. A man was trapped under the seats and he was burning
Marybeth Mosier
Plane passenger

Julien Paluku, governor of the North Kivu region, where Goma is situated, said one of the plane's pilots had reported that an engine died as the plane was on the runway.

When the pilots tried to brake, a tyre failed as well, he said.

There was also speculation that heavy rain shortly before the crash may have been a factor.

Bazaar flattened

An aid worker with the charity World Vision, Anna Ridout, described the aftermath of the crash.

"The plane has gone straight through this bazaar of shops, so the nose is one side and the shops and the houses are completely flattened," she told the BBC.

A woman checks a mortuary trying to find a relative after a plane crash in DR Congo, 16/04/08
Relatives have been filing through the mortuary trying to identify the dead

"The tail is the other side, sticking up into the air... You could see in the plane that bodies had been compressed to the front of the plane and just piled up because of the impact of the crash."

However, an official with the operating airline, Hewa Bora, said most of those on board the plane had escaped alive.

American Marybeth Mosier, a Christian missionary, managed to scramble out of the plane with her two children, though her three-year-old son suffered a broken leg.

"As we were rushing down the aisle, smoke was coming up through the floor. A man was trapped under the seats and he was burning," she told the AP news agency.

Poor record

Rescue workers are still scouring the scene of the crash for survivors and bodies.

Transport Minister Charles Mwando Nsimba warned that the death toll could rise.

"We have to take into account the fact that there are bodies still trapped under the rubble," he said.

DR Congo has one of the world's poorest air safety records.

Last week the European Union added Hewa Bora to its blacklist of airlines banned from flying in the EU.




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Goma air crash
15 Apr 08 |  In Pictures

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