LAGOS, Nigeria – A commercial airliner crashed into a densely populated neighborhood in Nigeria’s largest city on 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.
Rescue officials feared many others were killed or injured on the ground, but no casualty figures were immediately available.
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 into the dense neighborhood that sits along the typical approach path taken by aircraft heading into 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 major challenges of life in oil-rich Nigeria quickly became apparent as there wasn’t any 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 couldn’t carry enough water. Few are stationed in Lagos state, even though it has a population of 17.5 million. Officials commandeered water trucks from nearby construction sites, but they became stuck on the narrow, crowded roads, unable to reach the crash site.
The dead included at least four Chinese citizens, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported late Sunday, citing Chinese diplomats in Nigeria.
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