- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 15, 2008

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Government officials say there are only six known survivors, including one of the pilots, out of the 85 people who were onboard a DC-9 plane that crashed in eastern Congo.

The governor of the province where the plane crashed says there were 79 passengers and six crew members on the flight headed to Congo’s capital.

Julien Mpaluku says the crash site in Goma is engulfed in flames and it isn’t clear if the bodies found are those of passengers or people in the neighborhood where the plane went down.

The DC-9 plane crashed into a residential neighborhood in the eastern Congo town of Goma. The plane faltered after takeoff and hurled into the populated neighborhood in the Central African nation, said Julien Mpaluku, the governor of the province.

We have already picked up many bodies dozens of bodies,” Mpaluku said. “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.” One of the pilots was among the survivors, he said.

The flight was headed to Kinshasa, Congo’s capital, said Gauthier Iloko, the adjunct commander of the Goma airport.

The DC-9 is owned by Hewa Bora, a private company, Mpaluku said. Iloko said the plane’s manifest had not yet been located.

The neighborhood of Birere where the plane went down is located just beyond the takeoff lane. The lane used to continue into the neighborhood but was partially destroyed by the lava that followed a 2001 volcanic eruption.

Few passable roads traverse Congo after decades of war and corrupt rule, forcing the country’s deeply impoverished people to rely on boats and planes to move around.

Congo has one of the worst air safety records in the world.

One of the worst air accidents in Congo’s history occurred in 1996, when an Antonov 32 turboprop crashed seconds after takeoff from Kinshasa’s airport, plowing into a crowded open-air market and killing about 300 people.

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