Nigeria declares mourning after air crash


Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has declared three days of national mourning after a passenger jet crashed into a Lagos suburb on Sunday and killed all 153 people on board.

Emergency workers used cadaver dogs and cranes to search the site for corpses on Monday. Officials said searchers were still looking for the aircraft's "black box" recorder.

Jonathan "has declared a three-day period of national mourning for all those who lost their lives in the Dana plane crash in Lagos today", a statement from the president's s office said.

After viewing the site of the crash, the country's worst in almost two decades, Jonathan described the incident as a "setback" for the country's aviation industry.

"By the end of the day, I will make sure that this will not repeat itself in the country," he said.

Harold Denuren, of Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority, confirmed that there were no survivors from the accident involving the Dana Air flight from Abuja to Lagos.

However, rescue officials said they fear many more people may have perished on the ground.

"The fear is that since it happened in a residential area, there may have been many people killed," Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency, said.

The Boeing MD83 came down in a densely populated neighbourhood near Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport, destroying buildings.

A disastrous history

Lagos airport has been shut down and passengers awaiting later flights were told to go home.

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Abuja, said 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.

Others suggested it had hit a building directly.

Lagos-based Dana Air has five aircraft in its fleet and runs both regional and domestic flights. It has announced on its website that all Monday flights have been canceled.

Dana Air says it wants "to be recognised and respected as Nigeria's most reliable and customer-friendly airline" and operated 27 daily flights to five national destinations by the end of 2011.

"The airline began commercial flight operations on Monday, November 10, 2008 and has grown to become one of Nigeria's leading airlines, operating daily flights to Abuja, Calabar, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Uyo," it said.

The plane that crashed on Sunday was purchased from US-based Alaska Airlines and one of four McDonnell Douglas-83 aircraft owned by Dana Air.

According to specialised aviation safety websites, it was built in 1990 and sold on to Dana Air in 2009.

Its safety record shows that it suffered two incidents that led to an emergency diversion and an evacuation in 2002 and 2006 due to technical faults causing smoke in the cabin.

In Nigeria in April 2010, it was forced to perform an emergency landing after loss of engine power caused by a bird strike.

Lagos' international airport is a major hub for West Africa and saw 2.3 million passengers pass through it in 2009, according to the most recent statistics provided by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

The crash is not the first in Nigeria, which has a history of major aviation disasters.

In August 2010, the US announced it had given Nigeria the Federal Aviation Administration's Category 1 status, its top safety rating that allows the West African nation's domestic carriers to fly directly to the US.

But many travelers remain wary of some airlines. The country is beset by government corruption and mismanagement.

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.

Nigeria has tried to redeem its aviation image in recent years, saying it now has full radar coverage of the entire country. However, in a nation where the state-run electricity company is in tatters, the power grid and diesel generators sometimes both fail at airports, making radar screens go blank.

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

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