Source AP ©

Cargo plane crashes down on crowded market area in Congo's capital

A cargo plane fell down on a crowded market square not far from the airport in the capital of Congo on Thursday. An employee of the airport, Appo Ilunga, said that the Russian-made Antonov 26 airplane crashed into a market area of the Kingasani neighborhood of Kinshasa around 10:30 a.m. (0930 GMT). It is not known if anyone was killed in the plane crash, nor is it known how many people were on board.

A neighborhood resident reached by phone said the area was full of smoke and the confusion was making it hard to determine whether there deaths or injuries. Papy Kangufu said the market was full of people when the plane crashed.

Ilunga said the plane had just taken off from the airport en route to central Congo. Kingasani is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Kinshasa airport.

Cargo planes in Congo are often flown by experienced pilots from former Soviet states, but the aircraft are often old, ill-maintained and overcrowded.

Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency reported that the plane had a Russian crew.

In 1996, an Antonov 32 turboprop crashed seconds after takeoff from Kinshasa's main airport, skidding across a busy street and plowing into a crowded open-air market. The crash killed at least 300 people, one of the worst air accidents in Congo's history.

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