40 Survivors Rescued in Congo Plan Crash; Death Toll Unknown

A passenger plane crashed Friday in the giant Central African nation of Congo, and officials said at least 40 people had survived though the death toll was unknown.

The plane was heading from Congo's capital to Kisangani in the country's northeast. It was the latest of several deadly accidents that have plagued Congo's largest airline.

"I confirm the crash of one of our planes," said Stavros Papaioannou, the chairman and CEO of Hewa Bora Airways. "I don't yet have the details but it's sure that some of the people died."

Sabiti Mwamba, the director of the Congolese Aviation Authority, said the plane likely went down due to bad weather as it was landing.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said the plane went down a few yards from the Kisangani airport.

"It was due to the thunder," he said. "We have already helped take out at least 40 survivors and the rescue operation is ongoing."

Hewa Bora, which means "Fresh Air" in Swahili, has a history of crashes.

In April 2008, one of their DC-9s rammed into a bustling market after failing to lift off from Goma's airport, killing at least 40 people, most of them on the ground.

A few months later in September, a Hewa Bora plane carrying 17 people went down in inclement weather killing all on board.

Congo has one of the worst air safety records in the world. Few passable roads traverse the giant country after decades of war and corrupt rule, forcing the country's deeply impoverished people to rely on ill-maintained planes and boats to move around.