KHARTOUM (AFP) — A cargo plane crashed mid-flight in Sudan on Friday, killing seven crew members, including five foreigners, in the third fatal aviation accident to blight the African country in the past two months.
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdel Hafiz told AFP that the Juba Cargo company plane crashed an hour and 10 minutes after take off from Khartoum, bound for the southern Sudanese capital Juba, apparently owing to bad weather.
"One person survived out of eight (crew members). His name is Mohamed Hamza, a Sudanese. Two Sudanese were among the dead (along with) four from Ukraine and one from Armenia," Hafiz said.
The plane took off at 5:55 am (0255 GMT) and came down north of Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile State.
"A thunderstorm hit the plane, as the survivor said, one of the crew. This apparently is the cause. The survivor is not injured but was taken to hospital (for a check-up)," Hafiz told AFP.
The dead were evacuated and flown back to a Khartoum hospital morgue where police told bereaved relatives that they could not claim the bodies until Saturday, said an AFP photographer.
The Sudan Media Centre (SMC) website, which is considered close to the intelligence services, said the Antonov 12 had only recently returned to Sudan after undergoing major maintenance in the United Arab Emirates.
It confirmed that one Armenian, four Ukranians, the Sudanese pilot and another Sudanese were killed, and quoted the survivor -- an air operations officer -- as saying that the plane was hit twice by lightning.
An hour and 10 minutes after take off, the pilot contacted the control tower of Khartoum airport and requested permission to fly at a lower altitude because of poor weather conditions, but then suddenly communication was lost, SMC said.
The website quoted Major General Abdubaker Jafar, general manager of the Civil Aviation Authority, as praising the authorities for accessing the wreckage by mobilising three helicopters operated by companies in the region.
Sudan has a poor aviation record and the crash was the third fatal aviation accident in Africa's biggest country since May.
On June 10, a Sudan Airways A310 carrying 214 people burst into flames after landing at Khartoum international airport, killing at least 30 people.
Airport authorities said an engine caught fire, spreading to the fuselage, while survivors said weather conditions at the time of the landing were poor, owing to a sandstorm followed by heavy showers.
This week Sudan Airways was granted a one-month reprieve from the Civil Aviation Authority over its flight worthiness after an initial announcement that it had been grounded for not meeting international standards.
In May, south Sudan's defence minister was killed in a plane crash along with at least 22 other people, most of them senior members of the southern former rebel leadership.
In July 2003, 115 people were killed when a Sudan Airways Boeing 737 was destroyed in a ball of fire as it attempted to land at Port Sudan after apparently suffering an engine problem soon after takeoff.
After that crash, the Khartoum government said the Sudanese air fleet was growing old as it was unable to buy spare parts for its US-made aircraft due to economic sanctions imposed by Washington.
Washington, which has placed Khartoum on a blacklist of countries supporting terrorism, says the sanctions do not prevent the delivery of spare parts for aircraft if they are requested.
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