Nigerians mourn air-crash deaths

Government suspends licence of Dana Air as anxious families crowd into hospital and morgue in effort to identify bodies.

    Nigerians mourn air-crash deaths
    Workers were able to resume the grisly task of digging for charred bodies once the rain stopped on Tuesday [Reuters]

    Anxious families and diplomats in Nigeria have crowded into a hospital in Lagos and tried to identify corpses from an air crash that killed 153 people aboard the airliner and others on the ground.

    The stench of the dead carried outside the air-conditioned morgue on Tuesday. Guards parking cars outside wore surgical masks to block out the smell.

    Sad and bitter Sunday for Nigeria
    By Yvonne Ndege in The Africa Blog

    David Oke, the chief medical director of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, told the dozens of families that the morgue had received about 40 bodies.

    Outside the hospital, Ugonna Nwoka said his uncle had been aboard the Dana Air flight that went down in a congested neighbourhood on Sunday, turning much of it to rubble.

    Nwoka said he tried to go to the crash site on Monday but was pushed away by security forces.

    "We stayed for hours trying to plead to see what happened," he said.

    Asked why he needed to see the crash site, Nwoka said if he did not, it would be, "all like a dream, like a drama, like it's not real".

    By midday on Tuesday, searchers with police dogs recovered 150 bodies from the Dana Air-operated aircraft, including those of a mother cradling an infant, according to Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency.

    Sifting through debris

    Emergency workers were still looking on Tuesday through the debris for bodies, and one damaged building seemed on the verge of collapse.

    Recent major airline crashes in Nigeria

      June 3: Dana Air flight from Abuja to Lagos crashes killing all 153 people on board.
      October 29, 2006: Aviation Development Co. flight from Abuja to Sokoto crashes, killing 96 people, including the top spiritual leader for the nation's Muslims.
      December 10, 2005: Sosoliso Airlines flight full of schoolchildren flying from Abuja to Port Harcourt crashes, killing 107 people.
      October 22, 2005: Bellview Airlines flight crashes, killing 117 people.
      May 4, 2002: EAS airliner with 77 people aboard crashes into northern city of Kano, killing 73 people aboard and 76 on the ground.

    The MD-83 plane went down in Lagos's Iju-Ishaga neighbourhood, about 9km from Lagos's Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

    The crew radioed the tower that they had engine trouble shortly before the crash, but the exact cause remained unclear.

    The weather was clear at the time.

    Late on Monday, emergency workers recovered both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, according to Tunji Oketunbi, a spokesman for the Accident Investigation Bureau, which investigates air crashes in Nigeria.

    "We will take them abroad for decoding and that will help our analysis,'' Oketunbi said on Tuesday.

    "We will know what happened to the aircraft shortly before it crashed."

    Reporting from Lagos, Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege said that according to Nigeria's aviation ministry, the pilots had reported a problem to air-traffic control shortly before the airliner went down.

    However, she said, authorities had not yet released an official statement on the cause of the crash.

    "Engine failure is one thing that's being discussed, and it appears from everything we're hearing so far that it could've been the cause," she said.

    Earlier, our correspondent reported from Abuja that some people on the ground in Lagos believed the plane may have hit a power line before crashing into a building and bursting into flames.

    Airline grounded

    Nigeria's government has suspended the licence of Dana Air, according to the country's aviation ministry.

    Dana Air said the plane had experienced no mechanical faults prior to it crashing into an apartment building in Lagos.

    Sunday's crash appeared to be the worst since September 1992, when a military transport aircraft crashed into a swamp shortly after take-off from Lagos. All 163 army soldiers, relatives and crew members on board were killed.

    On Saturday night, a Nigerian Boeing 727 cargo airliner crashed in Accra, the capital of Ghana, hitting a bus and killing 10 people.

    The aircraft belonged to Lagos-based Allied Air Cargo.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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