Doomed Nigerian plane seen flying low

2012-06-03 20:53
Residents said the plane had been coming in low, making a loud noise, when it slammed into the residential area. (CKN, AFP)

Residents said the plane had been coming in low, making a loud noise, when it slammed into the residential area. (CKN, AFP)

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Lagos - A passenger plane slammed into a furniture shop and an apartment building in Nigeria's largest city on Sunday.

Firefighters pulled at least one body from the heavily damaged building and searched for survivors and several charred corpses could be seen in the rubble.

Casualty figures were not yet known, said Lagos state emergency manager Femi Oke-Osanyinpolu. It was unclear how many people were in the building, located just north of the airport.

The plane did not to appear to have nose-dived into the building, but seemed to have landed on its belly. It first crashed through a furniture shop and then into residential buildings next to the workshop in this densely packed neighbourhood.

The nose of the plane was embedded into the three-storey apartment building, damaging only one part of the structure. Fire still smouldered everywhere as a group of men stood atop the landing gear that was smoking and took pictures with their mobile phones.

At the crash site, an Associated Press reporter saw parts of the plane's seat signs scattered around. Firefighters tried to put out the smouldering flames of a jet engine and carried at least one corpse from the building that continued to crumble.

Several thousand people looked on.

Two fire trucks and about 50 rescue personnel were at the site about an hour after the plane went down. Some of those gathered around the site helped firefighters bring in the water hoses from their trucks.

The Nigerian Red Cross arrived, as well as Nigeria's air crash safety investigators.

A military helicopter flew overhead. The sound of the crowd was also occasionally punctuated by the noise of aircraft still landing at the airport.

Lagos' international airport is a major hub for West Africa and saw 2.3 million passengers pass through it in 2009, according to the most recent statistics provided by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

In August 2010, the US announced it had given Nigeria the FAA's Category 1 status, its top safety rating that allows the nation's domestic carriers to fly directly to the US.

The Nigerian government said it also now has full radar coverage of the entire nation. However, in a nation where the state-run electricity company is in tatters, state power and diesel generators sometimes both fail at airports, making radar screens go blank.

No survivors

"It was a Dana [airline] flight out of [the capital] Abuja to Lagos with about 153 people on board," Nigeria's head of civil aviation Harold Demuren told AFP.

Asked if anyone likely survived the crash he said, "I don't believe there are any survivors."

Lagos state police spokesperson Joseph Jaiyeoba told AFP the plane went down in the Iju neighbourhood on the mainland of the city where the bulk of the city's population lives.

"It was flying low with a lot of noise for about five minutes before it crashed into the residential area," one resident said. "It then burst into flames."

Another resident, Tunji Dawodu, said "I was just coming out of church around 15:30 when I heard a loud noise."

"I thought it was an explosion," he said. "Then there was a huge flame from the building where the plane has crashed into."

A spokesperson for Nigerian airline Dana confirmed one of its planes was involved in the crash but could not immediately provide further details.

"I can confirm that one of our planes crashed today on the outskirts of Lagos," Tony Usidamen told AFP. "We lost communication with the aircraft. We are going to issue an official statement."

Spotty aviation record

Nigeria has a spotty aviation record, though Dana has been considered to be a relatively safe domestic airline.

It began flights in November 2008 and had been operating up to 27 daily flights using a fleet of MD-83 aircraft, according to information on its website.

Its aircraft make daily flights between Abuja, Calabar, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Uyo.

This latest incident came after another plane crash on Saturday night in the capital of the nearby West African nation of Ghana, which saw a cargo plane overshoot a runway and hit a passenger bus, killing at least 10 people.

The Allied Air cargo plane had departed from Lagos and was to land in Accra.

Lagos, the largest city in Africa's most populous nation, is home to an estimated 15 million people.

Built around a lagoon on the Atlantic coast, it is thought to be the largest city in Africa.

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