LAGOS, Nigeria – A commercial airliner struck a three-story apartment building inNigeria’s largest city on Sunday, killing all 153 people on boardand others on the ground in the worst air disaster in nearly twodecades for the troubled nation. The cause of the Dana Air crash remained unknown Sunday night, asfirefighters and police struggled to put out the flames around thewreckage of the Boeing MD83 aircraft. Authorities could not controlthe crowd of thousands gathered around to see the crash site, withsome crawling over the plane’s broken wings and standing on astill-smoldering landing gear. The flight’s pilots radioed to the Lagos control tower just beforethe crash, saying the plane had engine trouble, a military officialsaid.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was notauthorized to speak to journalists. Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency ManagementAgency, said there were likely more casualties on the ground, butthe number was unknown. He said they were also still trying to getan official manifest on the flight. Sometimes flights in Nigeriaissue paper tickets and don’t record all passengers via computer.
Firefighters and local residents were seen carrying the corpse of aman from one building, its walls still crumbling and flamesshooting from its roof more than an hour after the crash. President Goodluck Jonathan later declared three days of nationalmourning in Africa’s most populous nation. Jonathan “prays that God Almighty will grant the families of thevictims of the plane crash the courage and fortitude to bear theirirreparable loss,” a statement from his office read. 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 afurniture shop and then into residential buildings next to theworkshop in this densely packed neighborhood. Mortar Rendering Machine
Fire still smoldered everywhere as a group of men stood atop thelanding gear that was smoking and took pictures with their mobilephones. Two firetrucks and about 50 rescue personnel were at the site aboutan hour after the plane went down. A military helicopter flewoverhead. While local residents helped carry fire hoses to the crash site,the major challenges of life in oil-rich Nigeria quickly becameapparent as there wasn’t any water to put out the flames more thanthree hours later. Some young men carried plastic buckets of waterto the fire, trying to douse small portions. Gypsum Plaster Machine
Fire trucks, from the very few that are stationed in Lagos statewith a population of 17.5 million, couldn’t carry enough water.Officials commandeered water trucks from nearby construction sites,but they became stuck on the narrow, crowded roads, unable to reachthe crash site. The Dana Air flight was taking passengers from Lagos to Abuja, saidHarold Denuren, head of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. Theplane went down in clear and sunny weather. Lagos’ international airport is a major hub for West Africa and saw2.3 million passengers pass through it in 2009, according to themost recent statistics provided by the Federal Airports Authorityof Nigeria. In August 2010, the U.S. Wall Rendering Machine
announced it had given Nigeria the FAA’sCategory 1 status, its top safety rating that allows the nation’sdomestic carriers to fly directly to the U.S. The Nigerian government said it also now has full radar coverage ofthe entire nation. However, in a nation where the state-runelectricity company is in tatters, state power and dieselgenerators sometimes both fail at airports, making radar screens goblank. On Saturday, a oeing 727 cargo plane coming from Lagos crashed atGhana’s international airport, killing at least 10 people after itslammed through a fence and onto a nearby street, the country’stransit company said Sunday. The crash occurred in Accra near Kotoka International Airport,which sits near newly built high-rise buildings and hotels.Witnesses said the plane first smashed through the fence that runsaround the airport before hitting a bus.
Randy Banahene, a taxi driver who saw the crash, said an explosionsound was heard when the plane hit a wall. He said the plane landedon its belly across a road, its nose nicked and tail bent withpunctures on its side, just yards from a residential neighborhood. Officials opened an investigation into the crash Sunday. The Associated Press contributed to this report.