U.N. plane crashes in Congo killing 32

>> Tuesday, April 5, 2011

By Jonny Hogg

KINSHASA, April 5 (Reuters) - A United Nations plane crashed while trying to land at the airport serving Congo's capital, Kinshasa, on Monday, killing 32 people, U.N. officials said. One person aboard survived.

"We can confirm only one survivor out of the 33 people on board the ... plane," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said in New York. The world body earlier said Congolese and foreign nationals were on board the plane.

The operator of the plane, Georgian flag carrier Airzena Georgian Airways, said the crew was Georgian.

A U.N. source in Kinshasa, who asked not to be named, said: "The plane landed heavily, broke into two and caught fire." There were strong winds blowing at the time.

Congolese Health Ministry official Joseph Kiboko said: "We sent eight people to hospital who were still breathing, but I don't know whether they survived. Both the pilots were killed."

In New York, U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said there had been four crew members, and that all but five of the 29 passengers were believed to be U.N. personnel. The others worked for non-governmental organizations, he told reporters.

A Reuters correspondent at the Kinshasa airport said the plane was completely destroyed and the wreckage was lying at the end of the runway.

Le Roy said the plane had missed the runway, probably due to wind. The United Nations would set up an investigation immediately, he said.

The Bombardier CRJ-200 jet, had taken off from the eastern city of Kisangani, a U.N. spokesman based in Kinshasa said.

Officials had told Reuters earlier that the plane was a CRJ-300.

The U.N.'s 19,000-strong peacekeeping mission is backing Congo government efforts to fight rebel groups that have been haunting the country's troubled east since a 1998-2003 civil war that killed five million people.

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