Passengers Sucked out of Plane over Congo

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Passengers have been sucked out of a Russian-made plane over the Democratic Republic of Congo after a door opened accidentally during the flight, a military official has said.

“The doors opened including the ramp as the pressure system broke down. Everybody was sucked out and is presumed dead,” the official in the capital Kinshasa said on Friday.

It was not immediately clear how many passengers were on board during the flight late on Thursday. A Russian aviation official in Kinshasa, who declined to be named, said he believed there were 129 people on board.

He said the pilot had managed to turn the plane around and land in Kinshasa after the accident.

Congo`s Minister for Peace Vital Kamerhe confirmed that a cargo door had opened mid-flight and that there was some damage.

The Russian official said the plane was an Ilyushin 76 and had been chartered by the Congolese army to fly from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi, Congo`s second biggest city in the southeast and home to a big military base.

He said he believed the passengers were a mixture of military officials and civilians.

The four-engined Ilyushin 76 is a versatile transport aircraft widely used in Africa, the Middle East, India and China, and remains in service despite its age because of the shortage of cargo aircraft worldwide.

The ruined state of Congo`s road network means that long-distance journeys have to be made by air, though many aircraft are old and poorly maintained.