(dpa) - Dozens were feared killed Tuesday when a DC-9 passenger plane with more than 70 people on board crashed upon take-off into a busy neighbourhood in the eastern Congolese town of Goma, officials said.
Plumes of smoke rose from the crash as police and the army attempted to cordon off the area.
"The plane was leaving toward Kinshasa when it caught fire and at the end of the runway it crashed into a commercial area. We don't yet have a number of casualties," said Kitoko Kabambi, an official with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Goma.
"It's a popular area. There are usually lots of people" in the Birere business district, he said.
An airport official said 79 people were on the flight and at least six - the pilot, co-pilot and crew - survived.
The US television news channel CNN said at least 83 people on board were killed. Flights are sometimes overloaded without altering the passenger list.
"I was on my way back to Kinshasa because my mission was over. When the plane crashed, I don't know what it crashed into, I fell to the back and I found an opening. That's where I was able to free myself," a survivor told United Nations-backed Radio Okapi.
Congo has one of the world's worst plane crash records, with old, ill-maintained planes being used to ferry Congolese around the vast country the size of Western Europe which has only about 500 kilometres of paved road.
"There is a minimum of five survivors," said Kemal Saiki, spokesman for the UN's mission in the Congo (MONUC), adding that MONUC was supporting Congolese security officials with extra personnel.
The Goma-Kinshasa flight is run by Hewa Bora Airways, one of more than 50 Congolese flight companies prohibited from flying in the European Union.
A cargo plane plummeted into a crowded market in the capital Kinshasa in October, killing dozens of people on impact before bursting into flames.