/ 4 June 2012

Rescuers clash over Nigeria plane crash

A helicopter hovers over the scene of the crash of a Dana Airline plane that crashed in Lagos
A helicopter hovers over the scene of the crash of a Dana Airline plane that crashed in Lagos

A plane carrying 153 people plunged into a residential area of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city on Sunday, with all those aboard presumed dead, an inferno igniting at the scene and buildings badly damaged.

A number of people on the ground were also believed killed, an emergency official said, as around 10 burnt bodies had been removed from a building damaged in the crash.

The official with the National Emergency Management Agency said the plane had crashed onto two buildings: a church and a two-storey residential structure.

Strong-arm tactics
Chaos broke out as thousands of residents swarmed the area and authorities sought to restore calm, with rocks and wood planks being thrown back and forth. Some residents tried to help by guiding firehoses through the crowds.

Thousands of onlookers had partially blocked access to the crash site, prompting soldiers to try to clear the area out. They used rubber whips, their fists and even threw a wood plank at those crowded around.

The strong-arm tactics likely did more harm than good. Looking to evade the troops’ aggression, people took off in several directions, trampling their neighbours as they tried to avoid being crushed themselves.

Some locals snaked a fire hose hoisted on their shoulders from a truck parked on the road towards the impact area.

But this effort was also interrupted by the security forces, whose aggression eventually broke up the human chain.

Some reacted by throwing stones at the troops, creating a crossfire of hailing rocks over the narrow street adjacent to the site.

The area also plunged into all-out pandemonium when a helicopter tried to land amid the crowd, kicking up clouds of ash and light debris that again scattered people in various directions.

After the crash, it appeared only a handful of rescue vehicles had managed to fight through the chaos to reach the site.

Cause of the crash
The cause of the crash of the Dana Air Boeing MD83 plane was unclear, but an emergency official as well as an aviation official said the cockpit recorder had been located and handed over to police.

Officials confirmed no survivors from the plane had been found on Sunday evening following the afternoon crash, but search-and-rescue missions continued.

“We presume they are dead,” Tunji Oketunbi, spokesperson for the country’s Accident Investigations Bureau, said when asked about the fate of those on board the flight.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared three days of national mourning for victims of the crash and pledged an investigation into how it had happened.

A spokesperson for the airline said the flight included 147 passengers and six crew. Skies were cloudy at the time of the crash, but there had been no rain.

Aviation Minister Stella Adaeze Oduah said in a statement that the flight had declared an emergency with the control tower at 3.43pm when it was 11 nautical miles from the airport. It disappeared from the radar screen a minute later.

Lagos, the largest city in Africa’s most populous nation, is home to an estimated 15-million people.

Ghana crash
The accident 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.

Nigeria has a spotty aviation record, though Dana had been considered to be a relatively safe and reasonably efficient domestic airline.

It began flights in 2008 and had been operating up to 27 daily flights. – AFP