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Congo governor reports plane crash, 3 dead

A Boeing 737 on a test flight crashed southeast of Congo's capital yesterday, killing at least three people, officials said.

The aircraft suffered unknown "technical problems" shortly after taking off Brazzaville, capital of neighboring Republic of Congo, Transport Minister Matthiew Mpita said.

Mpita said three bodies had been found so far and a high death toll was not expected because the plane was on a test flight.

Earlier, Congo Gov. Richard Ndambu said the plane crashed about 130 miles (210 kilometers) southeast of Kinshasa in the province of Bandundu.

Ndambu said the Boeing 737 took off from the city of Brazzaville in neighboring Republic of Congo.

Mpindi Kabeya, an adviser to Congo's prime minister, said two identity cards had been found: that of an Algerian pilot and another of a student from Brazzaville. Mpita, however, said it was too early to determine the identities of the dead.

Rescue workers headed to the site and saw from afar a large plane "still burning," the governor said.

Air safety has long been lax in Congo, where officials are easily bribed and tight maintenance schedules are rare. There have been at least 20 fatal plane crashes since 1996. Most of the aircraft are aging planes from the former Soviet Union.

The last serious crash was in September, when a humanitarian aid flight carrying 17 people hit a ridge in bad weather in eastern Congo. No one survived.

In October 2007, at least 50 people were killed when a cargo plane slammed into three houses just after taking off from Kinshasa's international airport on a flight to central Congo.


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