Single survivor of UN plane crash in Congo

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The Independent Online

Only one person survived among the 33 UN personnel and crew members aboard a plane that crashed in Congo, UN officials said.

UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told reporters he had no detailed information about the sole survivor, who he said was taken to hospital after yesterday's crash in the Congolese city of Kinshasa.

Mr Le Roy said the cause of the crash had not been determined, but investigators were looking at the possibility that windy weather had caused the plane to miss the airstrip. The craft came down next to the air strip and broke up upon landing, he said.

The UN peacekeeping mission in New York described the craft as a small passenger plane and said it was ferrying a mix of mostly UN personnel, including peacekeepers.

Mr Le Roy said the group was comprised of four crew members and 29 passengers who included a few workers for non-governmental organisations.

A top Congolese aviation official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the media, said the plane was travelling from Kisangani to Kinshasa.

The Security Council expressed its "deepest condolences" to the families of those who died. US Ambassador Susan Rice issued a separate statement, saying "the loss of humanitarians and peacekeepers today is a tragedy for the United Nations".

The UN mission in Congo, known as Monusco, includes more than 19,000 uniformed peacekeeping troops.

The mission is charged with protecting civilians in the enormous Central African nation wracked by violence from a myriad of rebel groups and militias.

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

Congo has one of the worst air safety records in the world. The Central African country's safety regulations are lax.