Lagos, Jun 4: The search for bodies and survivors in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos continued through the night after an airliner owned by an Indian company crashed and burst into flames, killing all 153 passengers and crew on board and many more on the ground.
The plane belonging to Dana Air took off from the capital capital Abuja and was due to land at Lagos airport when it crashed into residential buildings in the Agege area of the city last night and burst into flames.
Harold Demuren, the director-general of Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority, said all on board the Boeing MD-83 aircraft were killed in the crash.
Government officials said that it was likely there were further casualties among the residents of the buildings damaged by the aircraft.
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”.
Dana Air is owned and managed by Indian company, Dana Group. The group chairman is Ramesh Hathiramani.
The group is into drugs, plastics, automobiles, electronics and airlines.
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.
On 11 May, a similar Dana Air plane developed a technical problem and was forced to make an emergency landing in Lagos, BBC said.
ThisDay newspaper quoted its sources as saying that the pilot had informed the control tower that he needed to return to the airport after noticing something was wrong with his aircraft during taking off.
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.