More 30 die when UN plane crashes in DR Congo

April 5th, 2011 - 7:36 pm ICT by BNO News  

KINSHASA, DR CONGO (BNO NEWS) — A United Nations plane carrying more than 30 people crashed in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday afternoon, officials said, killing all but one person on board.

The accident happened at around 1.30 p.m. local time when the Bombardier CRJ-100ER crashed while landing at N’Djili International Airport in Kinshasa, the capital and largest city of DR Congo. The flight had been traveling from the northeastern city of Kisangani for the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).

A total of 29 passengers and four crew members were on board the aircraft when it missed the runway. All but five of the passengers worked for the United Nations, with the others working for international organizations or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Most of the UN staff on board worked for MONUSCO, but some were working for other UN agencies.

Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said initial indications are that bad weather was a key factor in the cause of the accident. Weather at the time of the accident included heavy thunderstorms and rain. He said 32 bodies had been recovered, while the sole survivor remains in a serious condition.

Ambassador Rafael Osorio of Colombia, which holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council this month, said the Council’s 15 members expressed their “profound sorrow.” He offered his deepest condolences to the families of the victims.

MONUSCO has set up a task force in the wake of the crash to lead the investigation and determine what follow-up actions are needed. Counselors are being provided for affected staff and a hotline is also being established for the families and friends of the crash victims.

The peacekeeping mission said the names of the victims will be released after their bodies have been positively identified and the next of kin informed. Their nationalities were also not immediately released, although the four crew members reportedly were Georgian.

In the United States, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. was “deeply saddened” to learn of the loss of life in the plane crash. “The United Nations has and continues to play a critical role in helping the Congolese government bring peace and stability to the country. [This] tragedy underscores the risks that UN personnel undertake worldwide. The United States strongly supports the UN in its mission and will continue to do so in this difficult time,” Toner said.

In the United Kingdom, Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham expressed his “deepest condolences” on behalf of the British government. “Those who died were some of the many UN and aid workers who work in difficult and sometimes very dangerous circumstances trying to build peace and alleviate humanitarian suffering in DRC. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims,” he said.

In September 2008, a total of 17 people were killed when a small United Nations plane crashed into a mountain near Bukavu in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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