Congolese President Joseph Kabila sacked his transport minister on Friday as the death toll from the latest air accident in the central African country rose to more than 50.

But authorities announced that a Congolese mechanic aboard the Russian-made cargo plane that came down in Kinshasa had survived the accident.

Congo has one of the world's worst aviation safety records and Thursday's air disaster, in which an Antonov 26 plunged into a neighborhood of the sprawling riverside capital, was the latest and most deadly of a series of recent accidents.

Transport Minister Remy Henri Kuseyo Gatanga "has been sacked for being incapable of organizing the aviation sector," presidential spokesman Kudura Kasongo said in Kinshasa.

The Humanitarian Affairs Ministry raised its provisional death toll from the accident to 51 from 38 and said this could rise further. At least 25 people were badly injured.

Ministry spokesman Saleh Kinyongo, revising an earlier figure given of 52 dead, said a Congolese mechanic aboard the Russian-piloted plane was found to have survived.

"We now know there is a survivor in hospital. He's the mechanic (of the plane)," he told Reuters. The survivor was in Kinshasa's Roi Baudouin hospital and was able to talk, he added.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said earlier the Russian captain, co-pilot and flight engineer of the plane were all killed.

Congo's cabinet met on Friday to look at ways of toughening existing air safety regulations, including improved inspection and harsher penalties for offenders.

At the crash site in the Kingasani neighborhood, police struggled to keep back onlookers and looters. Officers made several arrests of young men who tried to scavenge scrap metal, engine parts and valuables from the twisted, blackened wreckage.

The twin-propeller aircraft had crashed onto houses in the Kingasani district shortly after taking off from nearby Ndjili international airport.

"I was at the market when the crash happened. One of my three children is dead. Two others are missing," local resident Marie Simbi told Reuters.


At least 30 people had already been killed this year in six plane crashes in the country the size of West Europe with only a few hundred kilometers (miles) of paved roads.

In 1996, at least 350 people died when a Russian-built Antonov-32 cargo plane ploughed through a crowded market in Kinshasa, in the former Belgian colony's worst air disaster.

Local newspapers expressed outrage at the latest accident, which followed repeated pledges by the Congolese government to crack down against lax air safety by local operators.

"Another flying coffin kills again," read the headline of Le Potentiel newspaper. "Congo's killer skies," said Le Phare.

Hippolyte Muaka, acting head of Congo's Civil Aviation Authority, said the crashed plane, which belonged to Congolese airline Africa One but had been rented out to another company, Malila Airlift, had undergone a safety inspection.

He declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

Ageing planes in Congo suffer from a lack of maintenance and spare parts but they are often the only way to transport people and goods across the country that is slowly recovering from a 1998-2003 civil war. The aircraft are often packed with passengers and cargo and accurate records are rare.

Congo's air safety record was dubbed an "embarrassment" by the International Air Transport Association last year.

Africa One is on the European Union's airline blacklist. All airlines certified by Democratic Republic of Congo authorities -- except for Hewa Bora Airways -- are banned from the EU.