At least 26 people were killed Sunday when a small plane crashed after takeoff into a house in a densely populated area of the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
All 17 passengers and two crew members on board the plane perished, while seven more died on the ground as the plane smashed into a house near the airport, the deputy transport minister Jacques Yuma Kipuya said in a statement.
The first images from the scene showed smoke billowing above the neighbourhood and the aircraft in flames with local people throwing buckets of water on it.
A video seen by AFP showed the cabin of the plane still smouldering embedded in the wall of the house.
Other local sources in Goma claimed the death toll was higher, between 27 to 29 killed, and several wounded people were hospitalised.
The plane crashed down in a densely populated part of Goma
The Dornier-228 aircraft had been headed for the city of Beni, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Goma, when it went down after takeoff in the residential area.
Busy Bee airline staff member Heritier Said Mamadou had earlier confirmed that 19 were on board the flight scheduled from Goma around 9:00 am (0700 GMT).
Busy Bee, a recently established company, has three planes serving routes in the North Kivu province.
The pilot “failed in his takeoff,” Nord Kivu governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita said in a statement.
One of the airline’s maintenance workers at the site, quoted by news site actualite.cd, blamed a “technical problem”.
Among the victims of the Goma crash was a woman who was the coordinator of an association for the defence of women’s rights, Mambo Zawadi, her NGO said.
There were also three civil servants in the housing sector “who were returning to their posts in Butembo and Beni after work sessions that I had organised,” their supervisor Molendo Sakombi said in a statement.
The UN mission deployed in DR Congo, MONUSCO, sent two fire engines to support local rescue services.
Aircraft accidents are common in the vast, conflict-wracked central African country.
The UN mission deployed in Congo, MONUSCO, sent two fire engines to support local rescue services
Last month an Antonov-72 cargo plane that was providing logistical assistance for a trip by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi and carrying eight crew and passengers went missing after taking off from Goma.
– Troubled province –
Goma is the capital of troubled North Kivu province near the border with Rwanda.
The plane’s destination, Beni, has been the scene of other tragedies in the province plagued with fighting between rival militias. More than 60 civilians have been massacred since October 30.
The failure of the army and police to stop the killings has prompted protests by civilians, the latest one on Friday.
The Nord Kivu governor went to Beni to calm the citizens and on Sunday offered condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash.
Beni has also been at the epicentre of an Ebola epidemic which so far has killed around 2,200 people in DR Congo in the last year.