/ 1 September 2009

Motlanthe plane makes emergency landing

A plane carrying South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe back from an African Union (AU) summit in Libya made an emergency landing on an unlit runway in northern Congo after missing a fuel stop.

”They had just 35 minutes of fuel remaining, so they couldn’t go any further,” Democratic Republic of Congo Transport Minister Matthieu Pita told Reuters on Tuesday.

”The pilot took the risk, and, thank God, everything went well. There were no injuries and no damage,” Pita said of the overnight landing in the town of Gbadolite.

Bad weather had prevented the plane from making a scheduled refuelling stopover in Central African Republic as it brought Motlanthe back from an AU summit in Tripoli, Libya.

Pita said a jet was being dispatched to the airport to pick up the delegation.

Once used to shuttle Congo’s former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko to his palatial jungle retreat, the airport in Gbadolite has since fallen into ruins. Pita said fuel will be transported to the airstrip to extract the plane.

Meanwhile, the presidency said on Tuesday that rumours that Motlanthe’s plane crashed after taking off from Libya were untrue.

”The presidency has received a number of media enquiries about rumours that the deputy president’s plane has crash-landed on its way from Tripoli, Libya,” it said in a statement.

”The presidency would like to put it on record that these rumours are not correct.

”The plane was due to land in Bangui in the Central Africa Republic for refuelling. Due to bad weather, the plane was unable to land and was diverted to Gbadolite in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the presidency said. — Reuters, Sapa