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At least 50 dead from Congo plane crash
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Congo fired its transport minister Friday as emergency workers extinguished the last flames from a plane crash in the capital and found still more bodies in the wreckage. The death toll climbed to at least 50, officials said.

Saleh Kinyongo, spokesman for Congo's humanitarian affairs ministry, said 28 bodies had been retrieved so far, all of them residents of the neighborhood where the plane crashed. Twenty-two passengers on the flight were presumed dead, he said.

The cargo plane slammed into three houses Thursday just after taking off from Kinshasa's international airport on a flight to central Congo. Six homes were destroyed in either the crash or the conflagration that burned until early Friday, the humanitarian affairs ministry said.

A government spokesman announced the firing of Transport Minister Remy Kuseyo's on state television, but did not say if Kuseyo was accused of wrongdoing or negligence.

The death toll is likely to rise as the inflicted area was a crowded poor neighborhood and the fire created by the crash set over ten houses on fire.

The Russian-made Antonov-26 plane, belonging to a private airline company El-Sam, crashed at 10:30 local time (0930 GMT) Thursday, on its way from Kinshasa to the country's central city of Tshikapa.

Eye witnesses said they saw the plane become unsteady soon after taking off, and it later struck a mango tree and slammed into the neighborhood.

The UN mission in Congo stationed at a nearby airport sent firefighters to the spot and managed to put the fire under control, witnesses said.

DRC's Transport Ministry has sent a team to investigate the cause of the crash.

There are some 50 airline companies in DRC, with their fleets composed mainly of aging Russian planes.

Poor maintenance and the age of these planes has been blamed for the high number of accidents involving the country's airlines in recent years, with Thursday's accident the fifth since July, 2007.
(Xinhua News Agency, AP October 6, 2007)

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