Fears of heavy ground casualties in Nigeria plane

Last Updated: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 15:17

Lagos: Fears mounted in Nigeria on Monday that a large number of people may have been killed on the ground besides all 153 passengers and crew on board an airliner which crashed and burst into flames after hitting buildings near the airport here.

Cranes were clearing the still-flaming debris to allow rescue workers better access to the densely populated crash area.

Nigerian Civil Aviation officers who are leading rescue efforts said that they fear that a large number of people may have been killed on the ground as the ill-fated aircraft of Dana Air, owned and managed by an Indian company, crashed in a heavily populated area.

"62 bodies have been recovered so far," rescue officials said as smoke continued to rise from the crash site as fire-tenders and water trucks were attempting to douse the smoldering wreckage.

The Dana Air Boeing MD-83 was flying to Lagos from the capital Abuja when it crashed near the airport, damaging buildings and setting off an inferno.

Officials confirmed that there were no survivors found from the plane though search operation continued.

The plane crashed in an area containing what the residents said was a church, a printing shop and a two storey residential building.

Crowds of residents surrounded the crash site, delaying emergency services from searching for survivors.

For hours, the area around the crash site was not cordoned off as the mass of people packed the area. The fires made it difficult for people to see what was happening, as well as to breathe.

The nose of the plane was embedded in the three-storey apartment building, damaging only part of the structure. Smoke billowed from the windows and roof of the building that had somehow survived being completely demolished by the crash.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared three days of national mourning and ordered an investigation into the cause of the crash.

In a statement, Jonathan said that the crash had "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".

Nigeria has a poor aviation record, though Dana had been considered to be a relatively safe and reasonably efficient domestic airline. It began flights in 2008 and had been operating up to 27 daily flights.

The Dana group, whose chairman is Ramesh Hathiramani, is into drugs, plastics, automobiles, electronics and airlines.

On 11 May, a similar Dana Air plane developed a technical problem and was forced to make an emergency landing in Lagos, BBC said.

Yesterday`s crash appeared to be one of the worst in the country. The deadliest came in July 1991, when all 261 on board a Nigerian Airways airliner died after its landing gear caught fire shortly after takeoff in Saudi Arabia en route to Nigeria, and the plane went down.

About 225 people were killed in two crashes that occurred within two months of each other in late 2005.

PTI



First Published: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 15:16

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