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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
DR Congo plane crash: missionaries among survivors
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¬†Thirty-three bodies were counted yesterday in the morgues of the two main hospitals of Goma, capital of South Kivu (east of the Democratic Republic of Congo), where a plane of the Hewa Bora Airline en route to Kinshasa crashed yesterday. The toll of the plane crash however remains uncertain. While the international press ≠ citing the airline officials ≠ reports some 20 dead, the Congolese local press indicate that the toll may rise as high as 90. Missionary News Service sources say that because the plane came down in a densely populated market area the full death toll may never be known. While Congolese President Joseph Kabila, headed to New York and crash investigators began to arrive, police banned a demonstration planned by the local community. The Hewa Bora airline has for time been accused of bad maintenance of its aircrafts and a few days ago was included in a black list by the European Union, which cancelled the flights from Goma to Brussels. Xaverian missionaries, Father Pierfrancesco Agostinis and Fr Pietro Rinaldione were among the crash survivors. Fr Agostinis said: "My instinct told me to move to the front of the plane, toward the pilot cabin We couldn't see anything inside, a fire had broken out. Fortunately I found a door and was able to get out. My confrere was instead pulled out of an opening from outside", Fr Agostinis, from the Italian province of Udine, is now with his community in Goma, while Fr Rinaldi is being held under observation in hospital with a few light burns to an arm. "The plane was taking off and a wheel must have exploded as it was lifting. The pilot attempted to land, but there was no runway left and plunged into the houses of the market", said Fr Agostinis. "There was complete confusion. The plane broke in half and set on fire. We were in the middle of the plane. As soon as I could I decided to move. Pietro Rinaldione instead found an opening in the middle of the plane and managed to escape. There was a lot of smoke. All those in the back of the plane must have died" he said. Fr Agostinis said: "Water tank trucks of the MONUC United Nations mission arrived on the scene, but there were no pumps, so the people tried to turn out the flames by passing buckets. The rescue efforts were very disorganised". Fr Agostinis and Fr Rinaldi are parish priests in the Kingabwa neighbourhood of the capital Kinshasa. Birere, a typical African market and among the most popular areas of Goma, is situated at the end of the runway. In addition to stores and some shopping centres, on the streets of the neighbourhood women lay down cloths and sell small quantities of flour, rice and vegetables. "It is always very busy and there is serious concern that the death toll is much higher than currently reported", a humanitarian source. told MISNA Source: MISNA
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