Nigeria mourns its dead after plane destroys township

LAGOS: The Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, has declared three days of national mourning for victims of a plane crash which killed at least 153.

The plane, with 147 passengers and six crew, plunged into a residential area of Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, on Sunday, igniting an inferno.

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Nigerian rescuers dig through plane wreckage

A day after a deadly plane crash killed at least 153 people, rescue workers search through the still smoking wreckage.

A number of people on the ground are also believed dead, an emergency official said, as about 10 burnt bodies had been removed from a building damaged in the crash.

Mr Jonathan has pledged an investigation as rescuers rushed to pull out survivors from the densely populated poor neighbourhood near the airport.

The cause of the crash of the Dana Air Boeing MD83 plane is unclear, but the emergency official as well as an aviation official said the cockpit recorder had been retrieved.

Tunji Oketunbi, a spokesman for the country's Accident Investigation Bureau, said definitive casualty figures would only emerge ''after the search and rescue'' was completed.


An airline spokesman said it was cloudy at the time of the crash but there had been no rain.

The plane crashed in a plot containing what residents described as a church, a printing shop and a two-storey residential building.

Chaos broke out as authorities sought to restore calm, with rescue workers facing heavy crowds and aggressive soldiers while trying to access smouldering wreckage.

Thousands of onlookers had partially blocked access to the crash site, prompting soldiers to try to clear the area out. They used rubber whips, their fists and even threw a plank of wood at those crowded around.

The strong-arm tactics likely did more harm than good. Looking to evade the troops' aggression, people took off in several directions, trampling their neighbours as they tried to avoid being crushed themselves.

Some locals snaked a fire hose hoisted on their shoulders from a truck parked on the road towards the impact area.

But this effort was also interrupted by the security forces, whose aggression eventually broke up the human chain.

The area plunged into all-out pandemonium when a helicopter tried to land amid the crowd, kicking up clouds of ash and light debris that again scattered people. It appeared only a handful of rescue vehicles had managed to fight through the chaos to reach the site.

''I just saw the plane - it was going down and down and down,'' Gift Onibo said.

A resident, Tunji Dawodu, said: ''I was just coming out of church around 3.30pm when I heard a loud noise.

''I thought it was an explosion. Then there was a huge flame from the building where the plane has crashed.''

Some residents said the plane had nosedived into the neighbourhood while others described it as swaying back and forth before crashing.

''It was waving, waving, waving,'' Yusuf Babatunde said at the scene. ''The pilot was struggling to control it. It crashed - it just started burning.''

The Aviation Minister, Stella Adaeze Oduah, said the flight had declared an emergency with the control tower at 3.43pm local time when it was 11 nautical miles from the airport. It disappeared from the radar screen a minute later.

Agence France-Presse