, LAGOS, Jun 3 – A plane carrying 153 people plunged into a residential area of Nigeria’s largest city Sunday, with all those aboard feared dead, an inferno blazing at the scene and a number of structures badly damaged.
And one rescue official said he believed a number of the bodies being taken away had been people killed on the ground rather than passengers.
An official with the National Emergency Management Agency said the plane had hit two buildings: a church and the two-storey residential structure.
“The plane is still burning as I speak with you, and there is smoke all over the place,” he said.
Thick smoke rose from the area near Lagos airport and flames could be seen coming from a two-storey building. Residents said the plane had been coming in low, making a loud noise, when it slammed into the residential area.
Some residents said it appeared that the plane nose-dived into the neighbourhood.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, though an official from Nigeria’s rescue agency and an aviation official said the cockpit recorder had been located and handed over to police.
Wreckage including a detached wing could be seen in the neighbourhood as the inferno burned. Residents reported seeing bodies being taken out of the area as rescue workers rushed in and a helicopter landed.
“The plane is still burning and gas coming out pervades the whole place, making search and rescue efforts difficult,” Tunji Oketunbi, a spokesman for Nigeria’s accident investigation bureau, told AFP from the scene.
Hundreds of residents swarmed the area to see what had happened.
“It was a Dana (airline) flight out of (the capital) Abuja to Lagos with about 153 people on board,” Nigeria’s head of civil aviation Harold Demuren told AFP.
Asked if anyone likely survived the crash he said, “I don’t believe there are any survivors.”
Lagos State police spokesman Joseph Jaiyeoba told AFP the plane went down in the Iju neighbourhood on the mainland of the city where the bulk of the city’s population lives.
“It was flying low with a lot of noise for about five minutes before it crashed into the residential area,” one resident said. “It then burst into flames.”
Another 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,” he said. “Then there was a huge flame from the building where the plane has crashed into.”
A spokesman for Nigerian airline Dana confirmed one of its planes was involved in the crash but could not immediately provide further details.
“I can confirm that one of our planes crashed today on the outskirts of Lagos,” Tony Usidamen told AFP. “We lost communication with the aircraft. We are going to issue an official statement.”
Nigeria has a spotty aviation record, though Dana has been considered to be a relatively safe domestic airline.
It began flights in November 2008 and had been operating up to 27 daily flights using a fleet of MD-83 aircraft, according to information on its website.
Its aircraft make daily flights between Abuja, Calabar, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Uyo.
This latest incident came after another plane crash on Saturday night in the capital of the nearby West African nation of Ghana, which saw a cargo plane overshoot a runway and hit a passenger bus, killing at least 10 people.
The Allied Air cargo plane had departed from Lagos and was to land in Accra.
Lagos, the largest city in Africa’s most populous nation, is home to an estimated 15 million people. Built around a lagoon on the Atlantic coast, it is thought to be the largest city in Africa.