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UN In DR Congo Saddened Over Goma Plane Crash

UN officials in DR Congo voice sadness in wake of deadly plane crash in Goma

16 April 2008 - Senior United Nations officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have expressed their sorrow and sympathy to the many victims of yesterday's plane crash in the north-eastern city of Goma, which has killed dozens of people.

Alan Doss, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in the DRC and the head of the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) to the vast African country, pledged the continued involvement of the UN in rescue operations.

UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists that there are conflicting reports as to the number and identity of the victims from the crash, which took place about 2:45 p.m. as the Hewa Bora Airlines plane was attempting to take off from Goma, bound for the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.

MONUC reports that between 21 and 37 people have died, with the survivors including three UN staff members and one dependent of a UN worker. More than 100 others are injured.

But more than 70 people were reported to have been aboard the plane when it crashed into the densely populated Birere neighbourhood of Goma. It is not clear whether the victims were passengers or also included residents of Birere.

"It seems that the majority of deaths are from those that were in the houses which surround the airport, but we also heard that many passengers were able to exit alive from the plane," Ross Mountain, the Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative in the DRC, told a press conference in Kinshasa.

He said MONUC was working with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Congolese authorities to assist the victims and their families.

MONUC personnel securing the crash site have also located the plane's black box flight recorder, which Mr. Mountain said would be vital to the investigation into the cause of the disaster.

DRC has been plagued by an extremely poor aviation safety record, and just last Friday the European Union banned Hewa Bora Airlines from flying in its airspace because of safety issues.

"We hope that there will be fewer accidents in the future," Mr. Mountain said. "Unfortunately, there is much to repair in the country. It is necessary to look at how the regulations can be reinforced. It is a question of management of the planes, of maintenance for the airports. There's a lot of work to be done."


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