LAGOS, NIGERIA (BNO NEWS) — A plane carrying more than 150 people crashed in a densely populated area of Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos on Sunday, killing everyone on board and many more on the ground in what may be the country’s worst ever aviation accident, officials said on Monday.
The accident happened at approximately 3:43 p.m. local time on Sunday when the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft went down in the Iju-Ishaga neighborhood of Lagos, just minutes before the aircraft was due to land at the city’s Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Dana Air flight 992 was coming in on a flight from the capital Abuja.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said the aircraft was carrying 147 passengers and six crew members when it crashed into a group of buildings, reportedly including a church, a printing shop and a two-story apartment building. Photos and videos from the scene showed thick black smoke rising from the area.
“Rescue workers have begun recovering bodies from the site of a plane crash where at least 150 people were killed after the passenger jet crashed into a densely populated area of Lagos,” a spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said in a brief statement on Monday.
More than 80 bodies had been recovered as of Monday morning, including 10 people believed to have been residents in a building which was damaged by the aircraft as it went down. NCAA chief Harold Demuren said no one aboard the aircraft survived the crash, which would put the initial death toll at 163, including the 10 victims on the ground. But officials fear the final death toll could surpass more than 200.
“It is unfortunate that your expectations to welcome and embrace your loved ones after their journey could be cut short so abruptly and in such unexpected manner,” Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola said on Monday. “There is no gainsaying the experience could be traumatic.”
Among those killed were several foreigners, including six Chinese citizens. “The Embassy confirms there were six Chinese nationals aboard the flight,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria said. “The Embassy has now made contact through various means with the families of the six Chinese citizens.”
Demuren said the pilot was American and the co-pilot from India, but it was not immediately known if other foreigners were also on board the aircraft. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority published a partial passenger list on its website, but it did not specify the nationalities of the victims.
The cause of the accident was also not immediately clear, but weather appeared not to have been a factor. “The airplane declared an emergency at 11 nautical miles (20.3 kilometers) to Lima Alfa Gulf and eventually crashed at 5 miles (8 kilometers) to touchdown in Lagos,” a spokesperson for the Federal Ministry of Aviation said.
But a government source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the aircraft had declared trouble with both its engines just before it went down in the densely populated area. A police officer at the scene said a cockpit recorder had been recovered and turned over to the appropriate authorities for investigation.
Nigeria has a history of major aviation accidents. The worst accident happened in September 1992 when a military transport plane crashed into a swamp shortly after takeoff from Lagos, killing at least 180 army officers, relatives and crew members. A Jordanian passenger plane crash-landed in northern Kano city in January 1973, killing 176 people.