15 April 2008Three United Nations staff members are among only a handful of survivors from today’s plane crash in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that has killed dozens of people, the UN peacekeeping mission to the country reports. The mission, known as MONUC, said a Hewa Bora Airlines plane crashed soon after take-off at about 2:45 p.m. from the airport at Goma, close to the border with Rwanda. The Kinshasa-bound flight was carrying an estimated 80 passengers and six crew members.Radio Okapi reported the plane experienced technical difficulties during the take-off and briefly reached an altitude of 100 metres before it crashed into homes in the nearby densely populated Birere suburb of Goma and burst into flames. Nearly all on board are reported to have died.MONUC peacekeepers, fire brigades, ambulance crews, medical staff and first-aid providers were dispatched immediately to the crash site to help local authorities give treatment to the injured and evacuate victims to a UN hospital.The mission said the few survivors include two international staff with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one of whom is in critical condition; one national staff member with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); and the spouse of an OCHA national staff member. The pilot, his co-pilot and a flight attendant are also believed to have survived.The DRC has long had an extremely poor aviation safety record, and just last Friday the European Union added Hewa Bora Airlines to its blacklist of airlines banned from flying into EU air space.