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February 18, 2014

Plane Carrying Relief Supplies Crashes in South Sudan

by Lisa Schlein

The International Organization for Migration reports a plane carrying relief supplies in South Sudan crashed Monday, killing one member of the crew.

This fatal crash was the 28th mercy flight since the International Organization for Migration (IOM) began its air operation on January 31.  

Since then, IOM chartered cargo planes have delivered 154 tons of emergency relief supplies to thousands of displaced people in parts of South Sudan most seriously affected by the country's ongoing crisis, including the towns of Malakal, Bor and Bentiu.

IOM spokesman Chris Lom said this flight was carrying drinking water, hygiene, sanitation equipment, medicine and shelter materials to nearly 3,240 internally displaced people at the U.N. base in Bentiu.

“The plane crashed on the runway at the Rubkona airstrip. We are not entirely sure of the circumstances, but we understand that there were two vehicles parked on the tarmac. One of the plane’s wings hit one of the vehicles and the plane spun off the runway and burst into flames.”  

Lom said that as far as he knows, this is the first fatal air crash of a relief flight in South Sudan in recent years. He said there are no plans to suspend the air operation.

“So the combination of insecurity on the ground and bad weather, bad roads, means that it is essential that these supplies continue to be delivered to inaccessible places like Bentiu, like Malakal, and like Bor,” said Lom.

The United Nations reports thousands of people have been killed and more than 850,000 displaced since fighting between the government and rebel forces erupted in mid-December.  

Lom said the International Organization for Migration is hopeful peace talks being held in Ethiopia will succeed and the relief flights can end.