LAGOS – Nigerian emergency services recovered more bodies on Monday from the smouldering, ash-covered wreckage of a plane that crashed in the commercial hub Lagos, killing all 153 people on board.
President Goodluck Jonathan declared three days of national mourning and ordered an investigation into the cause of Sunday’s accident, in which a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 flown by privately owned domestic carrier Dana Air crashed into the iron roof of an apartment block in the Lagos residential suburb of Agege.
His office said he was scheduled to visit the crash site on Monday afternoon.
“This is really a horrific moment for us here and we sympathise and give condolences to all the victims and families. (There are no) words to express our pain and grief,” Lagos state governor Babatunde Fashola said at the crash site.
“It is saddening, it is simply too much.”
The airline said on Sunday 147 people had perished, but in a list published overnight, there were also six crew members on board, taking the total to 153 killed. An unknown number of people may have been killed on the ground.
Oke Osanyintolu, head of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for Lagos state, told Reuters on the scene that 80 bodies had been pulled out by around 12.30 pm (1130 GMT).
A crane was helping clear away some of the debris.
Search and rescue teams found what they believed to be the plane’s black box flight recorder and handed it over to police, said Bankole Abayomi, director search and rescue for NEMA.
The cause of the crash is still unknown.
“They’re still busy recovering bodies. I believe some people were killed on the land as well as on the plane, though we don’t yet have a precise idea of numbers,” said Tunji Oketunbi, a spokesman for Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau.
“Any claim about what caused the crash is pure speculation at the moment,” he added.
“ONLY A MATTER OF TIME”
Though large curious crowds were still gathering around the scene, they were more controlled than on Sunday, when thousands thronged the streets, blocking access to the emergency services.
“This is a crash site, it is an investigation site and we should keep our distance and allow the first responders to do their work,” state governor Fashola told crowds on Monday.
Among the dead was the spokesman for the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Levi Ajuonuma, according to a passenger list released by the airline. Ajuonuma was also the only de facto spokesman for the oil minister in OPEC member Nigeria, Africa’s biggest crude producer.
Air crashes are not uncommon in Nigeria, Africa’s second biggest economy, which has had a poor airliner safety record.
“To be fair, the number of similar incidents has reduced in recent years,” said Samir Gadio, London-based analyst at Standard Bank, which has a big operation in Nigeria.
“However, it was only a matter of time before something tragic happened. Security is poor on domestic flights, some of the planes are from another age, maintenance is questionable.”
Residents who witnessed the crash were still in shock.
“The plane touched this tree here,” said Immanuel Shoyimi, a businessman, gesticulating towards a large mango tree in a nearby backyard. “Then it entered into that compound. ‘boom!’. I watched for five minutes not knowing what to do. I wanted to call someone, but I didn’t know who to call.”
The roof of his house was also scraped by the plane on its descent, he said.
“The shock was too much. Before I knew it I heard two blasts from the plane. Then I saw the tail from my gate.”