GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo — A plane carrying at least 18 people crashed on Sunday in the densely populated city of Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing several people, the provincial governor’s office said.
Rescue workers pulled at least 18 bodies from the rubble, officials said. Two people were rescued before the plane exploded, witnesses said. It was unclear how many others on the ground were killed or injured.
The plane, operated by the local carrier Busy Bee, was headed for the city of Beni, about 155 miles to the north, when it crashed shortly after takeoff, according to the office of Gov. Carly Nzanzu Kasivita of North Kivu.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Footage online showed smoke rising from the plane wreckage on the ground and parts of the fuselage resting on a concrete wall.
Busy Bee was not immediately available for comment. But an official from Busy Bee told Reuters that the 19-seater Dornier 228-200 had 16 passengers and two crew members on board.
Congo has one of the world’s worst aviation records, with relatively frequent plane crashes caused by lax safety standards and poor maintenance. All Congolese commercial carriers, including Busy Bee, are banned from operating in the European Union.
In October, a cargo plane departing from the same airport crashed an hour after takeoff, killing all eight passengers. The plane, an Antonov An-72 transport aircraft, crashed in a forest and broke apart upon landing.
That aircraft, carrying President Félix Tshisekedi’s driver, a logistics manager and soldiers, was headed from Goma to the capital, Kinshasa, and went off radar an hour after departing, the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement at the time. An armored vehicle used by the president had also been on board.
After news of that crash broke, local news media showed hundreds of supporters of Mr. Tshisekedi hitting the streets of Kinshasa, apparently fearing that the plane had been downed in a failed coup attempt. Mr. Tshisekedi took office in January from President Joseph Kabila, who governed for 17 years.
The Russian Embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo said on its Facebook page that preliminary information indicated that Russians were among the crew members on the Antonov jet.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission sent two planes and a helicopter to join the search for plane debris. But there was no hope for the passengers.
“There are no survivors; the bodies were all burnt to ashes,” a presidential adviser, Vidiye Tshimanga, told reporters.