73 Killed in Congo Crash

GOMA, Congo -- More than 70 people were killed when a Congolese airliner taking off from the eastern city of Goma crashed and burst into flames in a busy market district Tuesday, witnesses and officials said.

Six people -- the two pilots and four passengers, two of them children -- survived the crash of the Hewa Bora Airways Boeing 727 in Goma, capital of Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern North Kivu province, the local governor said.

The Hewa Bora airliner was taking off from Goma on a flight to the Congolese capital Kinshasa when it came down in the teeming market district of Birere, a warren of single-story shops which were crowded at that time of day.

Residents heard a big explosion, which set several buildings on fire. A large plume of smoke rose from the crash site.

"Half of the plane has broken off. There is a fire toward the back. People are coming with buckets of water to put out the fire. The UN is here trying to keep back the crowds," a witness at the crash scene said.

North Kivu governor Julien Paluku said there were 79 passengers and six crew on board. "Six people have been saved, two pilots and four passengers, including two children," he said.

The crash was the latest aviation disaster to hit Democratic Republic of Congo, a vast country the size of Western Europe that has only a few hundred kilometers of paved roads and one of the world's worst air safety records.