An overloaded cargo plane with passengers on board has crashed near the Nile River, reportedly killing up to 40 people. An official said that three people on board survived.
The plane crashed along the banks of the River Nile on Wednesday, shortly after taking off from the South Sudanese capital of Juba. Officials reported that it was bound for the Paloich oil fields in Upper Nile state.
The precise death toll is not yet known, as South Sudan's Civil Aviation Authority said it is still counting the dead. The authority has secured the crash site and is working to recover the plane's "black box," instrumental in ascertaining the cause of the crash.
Official documents indicate that there were 18 crew and passengers on the flight. They also indicate that there were six foreign crew members on board - five Armenians and one Russian.
A spokesman for the president told Reuters that, according to the airport control tower, three of the 18 survived.
Witnesses claim to have seen as many as 41 bodies at the crash site, some covered by cloth. A reporter for the Associated Press news agency said that women and children were among the dead.
The plane crashed in an area with only a few homes nearby. A witness said it looked as if the falling plane was initially headed towards a market.
According to officials, the plane belongs to a freight and logistics firm called Allied Services Ltd., which did not give any initial statement. Russian television LifeNews reported that the plane was made in the Soviet Union in 1971.
An official with another South Sudanese flight service said it was common for security services to put family members on cargo planes - only built to carry about a dozen people - to Paloich.
South Sudan is currently engaged in a brutal civil war between President Salva Kiir's government forces and his former deputy Riek Machar's rebels.
jtm/rc (AP, Reuters)