More than 150 dead after Nigeria plane crash: officials
Published Sunday, June 3, 2012 8:44PM EDT
A plane with more than 150 people on board crashed into a heavily populated neighbourhood in the Nigerian city of Lagos on Sunday. Federal aviation authorities said no one on board survived the crash, which also killed an untold number on the ground.
Harold Demuren of Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that all passengers aboard the Dana Air flight from Abuja to Lagos died.
The Lagos state government issued a statement saying 153 people had been on board the plane, which went down in a bustling neighbourhood near the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
Nigeria's national emergency management agency said the death toll will likely mount once officials get a handle on casualties on the ground.
The Chinese official news agency, Xinhua, reported late Sunday that at least four of the dead were Chinese citizens.
Associated Press reporter Jon Gambrell reported Sunday that police tried and failed to gain control of the crash scene after local residents swarmed the wreckage, taking pictures and walking over the debris.
"The airplane crashed into a really densely populated neighbourhood in the city of Lagos, which is Nigeria's largest city," Gambrell told CTV News Channel in a telephone interview from Lagos.
"Thousands of people had overrun the crash site, standing on debris, standing on the wings of the plane, standing actually on smoking remnants of one of the landing gear. Police were trying to move them away at sundown, but many of those people had remained trampling over the debris and possible evidence into why this plane went down."
The cause of the crash was unknown late Sunday.
A military official said the pilots had radioed the airport's control tower shortly before the Boeing MD83 went down, reporting engine trouble.
The Nigerian government issued a statement after the crash Sunday, saying the incident "has sadly plunged the nation into further sorrow on a day when Nigerians were already in grief over the loss of many other innocent lives in the church bombing in Bauchi state."
Earlier Sunday, a car bomb exploded near a church in northern Nigeria as worshippers left morning services. At least eight people were killed, while dozens more were injured.
President Goodluck Jonathan has declared three days of national mourning in the wake of the crash.
A statement from his office said he "prays that God Almighty will grant the families of the victims of the plane crash the courage and fortitude to bear their irreparable loss."
Reports suggest the plane landed on its belly and slid through residential buildings, a printing press and a woodworking studio. Gambrell said the crash site was in line with a typical landing path.
Images from the scene show smoke billowing from the twisted wreckage of the plane while dozens of onlookers swarm the site.
Witness Praise Richard said he was watching a movie when he heard a loud explosion. He ran to the crash site.
"I don't think there will be any survivors," Richard told The Associated Press. "It would take a miracle."
Firefighters scrambled to put out the flames and pull bodies from the wreckage. However, with water a precious resource in Nigeria, firefighters had trouble staying ahead of the flames.
Both the Nigerian Red Cross as well as air safety investigators were on the scene.
More than two million passengers travel through the international airport in Lagos, which is a major connecting point for travellers in West Africa. U.S. Federal Aviation Administration officials gave Nigeria the agency's Category 1 designation, its top safety rating, which allows Nigeria's domestic airlines to fly to the United States.
Gambrell said Nigeria had a number of deadly airplane crashes early last decade. However, the airline industry has come under stricter regulations in recent years.
"But Nigeria has a major problem with government corruption and other problems in this nation, which means that sometimes safety regulations and government regulations are overlooked," he told News Channel. "So many people are nervous fliers in this country, and apparently some of the people's worst fears were confirmed again tonight with this crash."
Sunday's crash was the country's worst since 1992, when a military transport plane crashed shortly after takeoff from the Lagos airport. All 163 people on board were killed.
On Saturday, a cargo plane belonging to Lagos-based Allied Air Cargo crashed in Accra, Ghana, killing 10 people.
Dana Air has five aircraft in its fleet, and operates both regional and domestic flights.
With files from The Associated Press