New Delhi, Apr 17 (UNI) An Indian Army contingent, deployed in Congo on a UN peacekeeping mission, saved six survivors and retrieved 18 bodies from a passenger aircraft which crashed in that country on Tuesday.
An Army spokesman today said that timely rescue operation by troops saved lives of wounded passengers of the crashed aircraft.
The Hewa Bora Airways McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aborted its takeoff on Tuesday from Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, then skidded over the runway and down a ravine into a crowded neighbourhood of homes and shops in Birere market area.
At least 40 people were killed and about 100 others wounded with more than 50 of them still in a serious condition.
As per the initial reports the 120-seater aircraft was carrying 80 passengers and six crew members to Kinshasa via Kisangani.
A blast was heard before the aircraft took off. The aircraft burst into flames and fire started spreading towards the nearby houses and shops.
The spokesman said a rescue team of 6th Battalion of the Sikh Light Infantry, at present serving the UN under the North Kivu Brigade, was deployed at the Goma airport when the crash occurred.
Colonel S A Sharma, the Commanding Officer, immediately rushed along with all available officers and troops of the unit to the location to take control of the situation, he added.
On arriving at the site, six survivors were rescued from the aircraft and were evacuated to a military hospital.
The Army personnel also started controlling the crowd and preventing loot of the houses and shops on fire. Medical teams and fire fighting resources of the North Kivu Brigade were rushed to the site to douse the fire.
The personnel of the 6 Sikh LI brought the fire under control and prevented it from spreading to houses in the thickly populated Birere market area thereby preventing a major disaster.
The Indian Army personnel along with the Red Cross managed to rescue six survivors and retrieve 18 bodies from the crash site.
A major success was attained when in spite of the raging fire, Lt Col K S Mathur of the unit managed to retrieve the flight recorder of the aircraft from its tail end, the spokesman said.
Efforts to recover the remaining bodies and clear the debris were in progress, he added.
UNI AG SP GC1755