At least 62 bodies have been pulled by rescue workers from the wreckage of a plane that crashed in Nigeria’s largest city of Lagos, an official told AFP news agency on Monday, June 04, 2012
Two cranes arrived early Monday to clear debris and allow rescue workers better access to the densely populated area near the airport where the Dana Air plane crashed on Sunday, with the 153 people on board presumed dead.
“Sixty-two bodies recovered so far,” the rescue official said on condition of anonymity.
A few thousand onlookers gathered at the site, where a church, a two-story residential building and a printing shop were badly damaged. The number of those killed on the ground remained unclear.
Smoke was still rising from the scene and water trucks were also brought in to douse the shouldering wreckage.
“We were lucky. We just finished our church service when this thing happened,” one resident at the scene on Monday morning said.
One woman, who said that her uncle had been aboard the plane, asked rescue workers if she could have access to the site, but they refused, saying the bodies were unrecognizable.
President Goodluck Jonathan has declared three days of national mourning for victims of the crash.
Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, said on late Sunday they were also still trying to get an official manifest on the flight. Sometimes flights in Nigeria issue paper tickets and don’t record all passengers via computer.
The plane did not to appear to have nose-dived into a 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 neighborhood.
The nose of the plane was embedded into the three-story apartment building, damaging only one part of the structure. Fire still smoldered everywhere as several thousand people looked on. A group of men stood atop the landing gear that was smoking and took pictures with their mobile phones.
Praise Richard, a witness, said he was watching a film when he heard a loud explosion that sounded like a bomb. He rushed outside and saw massive smoke and flames rising from the crash site around 3:45 p.m.
At the crash site, an Associated Press reporter saw parts of the plane’s seat signs scattered around. Firefighters tried to put out the smoldering flames of a jet engine and carried at least one corpse from the building that continued to crumble.
Two fire trucks and about 50 rescue personnel were at the site 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.
It was not immediately known what type of plane this was, but Dana Air’s website says that the company operates its Lagos to Abuja and Abuja to Lagos flights using a Boeing MD83 aircraft.
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 U.S. 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 U.S.
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.
The presidency said in a statement the crash “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.”
A suicide car bomber drove into a north Nigeria church’s compound Sunday and detonated his explosives as worshippers left an early morning service, killing at least eight people and wounding dozens more, officials and witnesses said.