At least 23 people were killed Sunday when a small plane crashed into houses in a densely populated area of the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a regional rescue official said.
The dead are believed to include all those on board the plane as well as people on the ground.
“We are up to 23 bodies now,” Goma rescue service coordinator Joseph Makundi told AFP as authorities work to recover bodies at the crash site.
Images from the scene showed plumes of black smoke and flames apparently from the burning plane as locals looked on.
Rescue workers were also seen combing through the plane’s burned-out fuselage.
Goma airport official Richard Mangolopa told AFP no survivors were expected from the disaster.
The Dornier-228 aircraft had been headed for the city of Beni, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Goma when it went down after take-off in a residential area near the airport in the east of the country.
“There were 17 passengers on board and two crew members,” Busy Bee airline staff member Heritier Said Mamadou said of the flight that took off around 0700 GMT.
Busy Bee, a recently established company, has three planes serving routes in the North Kivu province.
The pilot “failed to take-off,” said Nord Kivu governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita in a statement.
One of the company’s maintenance workers at the site quoted by news site actualite.cd blamed a “technical problem”.
The precise number of casualties on the plane and on the ground was not yet known.
The UN mission deployed in DR Congo, MONUSCO, sent two fire engines to support local rescue services.
Aircraft accidents are common in the vast, conflict-wracked central African country, in particular involving Antonov planes.
Last month an Antonov-72 cargo plane that was providing logistical assistance for a trip by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi and carrying eight crew and passengers went missing after taking off from Goma.
In September 2017, an Antonov cargo plane chartered by the army crashed near the capital Kinshasa, killing all 12 people on board.
The country’s deadliest Antonov disaster was in January 1996 when an overloaded plane overshot the runway in Kinshasa and crashed into a popular market, killing hundreds on the ground.
Goma is the capital of troubled North Kivu province.
The plane’s destination, Beni, has been the scene of other tragedies in the province plagued with fighting between rival militias. More than 60 civilians have been massacred since October 30.
The failure of the army and police to stop the killings has prompted protests by civilians, the latest one on Friday.
The Nord Kivu governor went to Beni to calm the citizens and on Sunday offered condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash.
Beni has also been at the epicentre of an Ebola epidemic which so far has killed around 2,200 people in DR Congo in the last year.