A Russian-built cargo plane with passengers on board crashed after taking off from the airport in South Sudan’s capital, killing at least 41 people onboard and on the ground, airport officials told Al Jazeera.
A crew member and a child onboard survived, presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told Reuters news agency.
Shortly after taking off from Juba airport on Wednesday, the plane came down on the banks of the White Nile river, leaving a tail fin and lumps of fuselage strewn in vegetation close to the water.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Juba, said bad weather was hampering the rescue effort.
|Map of Juba in South Sudan map [Al Jazeera]|
The plane may have had about 20 people on board, including crew and “probably” 10 to 15 passengers, Ateny said, but added: “We need to confirm how many people were on board.”
In addition, he said an unknown number of people were killed on the ground as the Antonov plane crashed near where some fishermen were working. “We don’t know the number of people that were killed on the ground,” he added.
A police officer, who did not give his name because he was not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters at the scene that at least 41 people died, but said the number could climb. The Reuters witness said he saw 41 bodies at the site.
Earlier, South Sudanese media had said the cargo plane carried five Russian crew and seven passengers. South Sudan Tribune on Twitter also reported two survivors, one of them a child.
Radmir Gainanov, spokesman for Russia’s diplomatic mission in Uganda, which also oversees South Sudan, said the embassy was in touch with local authorities, including the defence ministry.
“We are clarifying details,” he told AFP news agency from Uganda.
Juba’s airport is the busiest in the war-torn country.
The airport hosts regular commercial flights, as well as a constant string of military aircraft and cargo planes delivering aid to remote regions cut off by road.