Congo plane crash toll reaches 23, including Russians

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Four more bodies were found Tuesday after a plane ploughed into a residential area of a Republic of Congo city, a mayor said, raising the toll to 23 including a Russian crew of four.

The cargo plane slammed into a working-class residential area of Pointe-Noire, the Congo's economic capital and a major Atlantic port, as it was coming in to land on Monday, razing several small houses.

"In addition to the 19 bodies recovered yesterday, we have found four more this morning. That takes the toll to 23 dead," Pointe-Noire mayor Roland Bouiti-Viaudo told AFP.

The Trans Air Congo (TAC) plane was carrying four Russians -- two pilots and two mechanics, National Civil Aviation Agency director general Michel Ambende said. Five passengers were also on the plane, police said.

Officials said Monday around 14 people were also injured when the Antonov struck Mvou Mvou district, while residents told AFP that about 20 homes were flattened.

Emergency rescue teams on Tuesday searched the rubble of the destroyed buildings for any more victims, watched by a crowd of about 300 onlookers.

"There is no further news concerning the injured apart from a woman who sustained third-degree burns and who is being evacuated to South Africa," the mayor added.

The national ministers of transport, health, interior and social affairs visited the site of the crash on Monday, national radio reported.

"We're going to meet this morning to agree on setting up a crisis committee and a commission of inquiry to determine the real causes of the crash," Ambende told AFP.

The aircraft that crashed was an Antonov, the elderly workhorses of many African nations that are no longer allowed to carry passengers in Congo. Some crews however allow clandestine passengers aboard if they pay a fee.

The plane had been largely empty, carrying about 750 kg of beef, Ambende said.

Pointe-Noire has about one million inhabitants and has a major port through which pass most of the goods imported into Congo, as well as exports of oil.

In June 2010 Australian mining tycoon Ken Talbot and 10 colleagues were killed in a plane crash in the northwest of the country and in August 2009 six crew members were killed when an Antonov cargo plane crashed at a cemetery on the outskirts of Brazzaville.

© 2011 AFP

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