Share this article

print logo

Plane crashes into Nigerian neighborhood

A commercial airliner crashed into a densely populated neighborhood in Nigeria's largest city Sunday, killing all 153 people on board and others on the ground in the worst air disaster in nearly two decades for the troubled nation.

The cause of the Dana Air crash remained unknown Sunday night, as firefighters and police struggled to put out the flames around the wreckage of the Boeing MD83 aircraft. Authorities could not control the crowd of thousands gathered around to see the crash site, with some crawling over the plane's broken wings and standing on still-smoldering landing gear.

Harold Demuren, the director-general of Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority, said all on board the flight were killed in the crash. Lagos state government said in a statement that 153 people were on the flight traveling from Nigeria's central capital of Abuja to Lagos in the nation's southwest.

The flight's pilots radioed to the Lagos control tower just before the crash, saying the plane had engine trouble, a military official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Rescue officials feared many others were killed or injured on the ground, but no casualty figures were immediately available. Firefighters and local residents were seen carrying the corpse of a man from one building, its walls still crumbling and flames shooting from its roof more than an hour after the crash.

President Goodluck Jonathan later declared three days of national mourning in Africa's most populous nation.

The aircraft appeared to have landed on its belly in the dense neighborhood, which sits along the approach path typically taken by aircraft heading to Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport. The plane tore through roofs, sheared a mango tree and rammed into a woodworking studio, a printing press and at least two large apartment buildings in the neighborhood before stopping.

While local residents helped carry fire hoses to the crash site, the challenges of life in oil-rich Nigeria quickly became apparent, as there was no water to put out the flames more than three hours later. Some young men carried plastic buckets of water to the fire, trying to douse small portions.

Fire trucks, from the few that are stationed in Lagos state with 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 reach the crash site.