DR Congo probes fatal air crash

Investigators look for clues after jet crashes into market, killing dozens of people.

The aircraft careered off the runway and into a busy market and residential area [AFP]
The aircraft careered off the runway and into a busy market and residential area [AFP]

Dunia Sindani, a passenger on the jet and a former pilot, told a local UN radio station that the aircraft suffered a problem with one of its wheels,  possibly a flat tyre, and was unable to take off.

Julien Mpaluku, the regional governor, said that one of the pilots reported that an engine died as the jet taxied down the runway.
When the pilots tried to brake, a tyre failed as well, he said.
Wings ripped off

The aircraft appeared to have crashed through a fence separating the runway from a market district of wooden houses and cement shops.

“It is really at the moment the worst country on the planet – by a very big margin – for aviation safety”

David Learmount, aviation expert
The aircraft’s wings were ripped off and its undercarriage and tail wrecked, leaving only its nose visible in the debris amid the smell of smoke and fuel.

“The toll from this accident is now 40 dead and 111 injured,” Julien Paluku, the governor of Nord-Kivu, said after visiting hospitals and clinics where the injured were taken for treatment.

Congolese and Red Cross officials had initially reported at least 70 dead in the crash.
Paluku said that the ‘black box’ flight recorder had been recovered from the crash site.

Rescue workers have so far been unable to establish if any of the aeroplane’s passengers were among the victims, or if all those killed were on the ground at the time of the crash.

“There were flames coming from the left wing. There was panic in the plane. I ran to the front. Crew members opened a door and I jumped. I fell onto the ground and saw the plane continue to move forward, then catch fire,” Desire Buhendwa, a 36-year-old passenger, told the AFP news agency.

Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege, reporting from the scene of the crash, said that UN peacekeepers and the Red Cross are leading the process of recovering bodies from the wreckage as Goma has no emergency services of its own.

“Bear in mind that this is one of the poorest countries in Africa,” she said.

“That is why the UN mission based here in Goma, which has around 4,000 peacekeepers, has taken it upon themselves, in conjunction with the Red Cross, to try and do what they can for those involved in the crash.”

She added that resucers think they are unlikely to find anyone else alive and that Goma’s central hospital is struggling to cope with the influx of patients.
Airline blacklisted

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


UN peacekeepers are involved in the
rescue operation [AFP]

On Tuesday, Michele Cercone, an EU spokeswoman, said she had no information on Hewa Bora specifically but she said that all airlines based in DR Congo were banned from EU air space.


“That is because there is a general lack of effective control by the civil aviation authorities there to monitor and maintain minimum technical standards,” she said.


David Learmount, an aviation expert, told Al Jazeera that the country’s airline safety record was “appalling”.


“It is really at the moment the worst country on the planet – by a very big margin – for aviation safety,” he said.


He said that developing economies around the world generally had worse safety records while “serious accidents that kill people have been virtually ruled out” in more developed economies.

There were eight plane crashes in DR Congo last year, according to the Geneva-based Aircraft Crashes Record Office.


Aircraft are used extensively for transport in the country, which has few paved roads.


Dozens of airline companies are in operation, using mainly old planes.


The International Air Transport Association has included DR Congo in a group of several African countries it classed as an “embarrassment” to the industry.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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