Kinshasa crash’s sole survivor

Officials had previously said all the plane's occupants died.

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Congolese President Joseph Kabila sacked his transport minister today as the death toll from the latest air accident in the central African country rose.

Worst aviation record in world

Congo has one of the world's worst aviation safety records and yesterday's air disaster, in which an Antonov 26 plunged into a neighbourhood of the sprawling riverside capital, was the latest and most deadly of a series of recent accidents.

Transport Minister Remy Henri Kuseyo Gatanga was sacked "for being incapable of organising the aviation sector", presidential spokesman Kudura Kasongo said in Kinshasa.

The Humanitarian Affairs Ministry raised its provisional death toll from the accident to 51 from 38 and said this could rise further.

Dozens more injured

At least 25 people were badly injured, apparently all on the ground when the plane crashed into the neighbourhood.

Ministry spokesman Saleh Kinyongo, revising an earlier figure given of 52 dead, says a Congolese mechanic aboard the Russian-piloted plane was found to have survived.

"We now know there is a survivor in hospital. He's the mechanic (of the plane)," he says.

Mr Kinyongo named him as Dede Ngama and said he's recovering in Kinshasa's Roi Baudouin hospital.

"He's alive and well. He's talking and he's even been on TV," he added.

Pilots killed

Russia's Foreign Ministry said earlier the Russian captain, co-pilot and flight engineer of the plane were all killed.

Congo's cabinet met today to look at ways of toughening existing air safety regulations, including improved inspection and harsher penalties for offenders.

At the crash site in the Kingasani neighbourhood, police struggled to keep back onlookers and looters.

Looters

Officers made several arrests of young men who tried to scavenge scrap metal, engine parts and valuables from the twisted, blackened wreckage.

The twin-propeller aircraft had crashed onto houses in the Kingasani district shortly after taking off from nearby Ndjili international airport.

"I was at the market when the crash happened.

One of my three children is dead. Two others are missing," local resident Marie Simbi says.

Dozens dead this year

At least 30 people had already been killed this year in six plane crashes in the country the size of West Europe with only a few hundred kilometres of paved roads.

Ageing planes in Congo suffer from a lack of maintenance and spare parts but they are often the only way to transport people and goods across the country that is slowly recovering from a 1998-2003 civil war.

The aircraft are often packed with passengers and cargo and accurate records are rare.

‘Embarrassing’ record

Congo's air safety record was dubbed an "embarrassment" by the International Air Transport Association last year.

Africa One is on the European Union's airline blacklist.

All airlines certified by Democratic Republic of Congo authorities – except for Hewa Bora Airways – are banned from the EU.