The United Nations reports a humanitarian aid flight carrying 15 passengers and two crew crashed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 15 kilometers northwest of the airstrip at Bukavu in South Kivu Monday afternoon. The U.S.-based group that operates the craft says there appears to be no survivors, but U.N. officials say they are still unable to confirm this. For VOA, Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva.
The plane crashed on a ridge in eastern Congo while on its way from Kisangani to Bukavu, on Congo's eastern border with Rwanda.
A U.N. spokeswoman, Elizabeth Byrs, says a search and rescue mission arrived in the area Tuesday morning. She says the reasons for the crash are still under investigation. But, the cause was probably due to bad weather.
"It is also a very dangerous region because the fog and mist can fall suddenly and weather conditions are sometimes very bad in this forest and mountainous area," she said.
The Air Serv International plane is operated by a group based in Warrenton, Virginia. The plane was being flown by a commercial South African company, Cem Air.
Byrs says the plane was on a regular twice-weekly flight, carrying humanitarian workers to the region.
"It is not for profit," she said. "It is a humanitarian flight and the organizations in the field use this kind of flight to transport the staff or to fly some assistance... In fact they transport the staff from one place to another and they can carry limited relief assistance, but it is more transporting the humanitarian workers."
Most aid agencies avoid traveling on commercial flights in the region because of their poor safety records. In April, a Congolese aircraft crashed near Goma killing nearly 50 people and injuring more than 100.
The civil war in Eastern Congo officially ended five years ago. But, fighting between rebel and militia groups and government forces continues. The humanitarian toll has been enormous.
The U.N. and other aid agencies say nearly 5.5 million people in eastern Congo have died, mostly from war-related hunger and disease.