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Sole survivor describes Congo crash

Published: 5:26AM Wednesday April 06, 2011 Source: Reuters

The sole survivor of a United Nations plane that crashed killing 32 whilst trying to land in Congo's capital Kinshasa on Monday said the plane was pummelled by strong winds in the moments before it went down.

Francis Mwamba, a Congolese journalist, had been returning from a reporting trip in the troubled east of the country, he told journalists from his hospital bed in Kinshasa on Tuesday, where he remains in intensive care.

Mwamba said the plane, which left the eastern city of Kisangani earlier, encountered bad weather as it approached the capital's airport.

"There was a lot of wind and the plane started to move violently," he said of the moments before the crash, adding that the next thing he remembered was waking up in hospital.

A UN source told Reuters on Monday the plane had landed heavily, breaking into two and catching fire.

The UN's head of mission in the Central African country Roger Meece, described the crash site - with wreckage strewn across the runway - as "shocking".

Georgian crew

He defended the United Nations' safety record saying it was the first time in the history of the peacekeeping mission in Congo that a UN plane had suffered a fatal crash.

"It's not useful to speculate (about the causes) at this time, certainly there is an investigation needed," Meece said, adding that the accident would not affect the mission's work in the country.

The operator of the Bombardier CRJ 200 - Georgian flag carrier Airzena Georgian Airways, said the crew of the plane were Georgians.

The UN has yet to release the identities or nationalities of the victims, although a UN spokesman confirmed that both Congolese and foreigners were amongst the dead.

The UN's 17,000 strong peacekeeping force is supporting the Congolese government to bring stability to the country following a brutal civil war which ended in 2003 and left more than five million people dead.

Congo, which is the size of Western Europe, has a notoriously poor aircraft safety record, with many local airlines blacklisted by European and American aviation authorities.

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