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At Least 20 Killed in Sudan Airways Crash - 2002-07-04

Aviation officials in the Central African Republic say at least 20 people are dead after a cargo plane crashed in an outlying district of the capital, Bangui, Thursday.

The aircraft went down in a swampy area of Guitangola, a farming district in western Bangui near the Obangui river.

Rescue crews combed through the wreckage Thursday, pulling a number of bodies from the mud. It is not clear how many casualties there may have been on the ground. Officials say several homes were destroyed.

Martin Ouesio, with the regional Agency for Air Navigation Safety, ASECNA, in Bangui tells VOA the airplane was trying to make an emergency landing in Bangui when it plunged to the ground.

Mr. Ouesio said the aircraft had left Chad's capital, N'Djamena, and was headed to Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo. He says the airplane, a Boeing 707, developed mechanical problems and crashed while attempting an emergency landing at Bangui's airport.

Immediately after the crash Thursday, aviation authority officials in Bangui had said the aircraft was operated by Sudan Airways, but they later retracted their statement, saying it was another carrier. There were conflicting reports as to which company was operating the special cargo flight.

The airplane's cargo included bags of vegetables, which were strewn about the crash site. Witnesses say some onlookers who arrived at the scene ahead of police and rescue crews, proceeded to steal the vegetables and airplane debris from the wreckage.

Investigators remained at the disaster site late Thursday, working to recover bodies and search for clues on what caused the airplane to crash.