(AFP)-Nigerian rescuers recovered burnt human remains as investigators probed for clues on Monday after a plane slammed into a Lagosneighbourhood, with all 153 on board killed and more feared dead on the ground.
Police fired tear gas at a surging crowd seeking to get a look at thecrash site at one point on Monday morning, while at other spots around the site people desperately sought access to the wreckage to locate missing relatives.
“I just want to be sure of how he died,” one man told rescue workers of his brother.
Wreckage still smouldered at the grisly site near the airport in one of Africa‘s largest cities as two cranes cleared away debris and a few thousand onlookers gathered.
Local media reported that the crash of the Dana Air Boeing MD83 was Nigeria’s worst since 1992, when a military C-130 went down after takeoff in Lagos, killing all 200 on board.
There have been a number of other crashes with more than 100 victims over the past decade in Nigeria but the most recent was in 2005.
Rescue workers had pulled at least 62 bodies from the wreckage by Monday morning, a rescue official said.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who declared three days of national mourning, was due to visit the crash site Monday, a spokesman said.
At least one of the plane’s two cockpit recorders had been recovered, officials said. The aviation minister said the flight had declared an emergency 11 nautical miles from the airport but the cause of the crash remained unclear.
The flight disappeared from radar one minute after having declared the emergency at 3:43 pm local time (1443 GMT), a statement from the minister said.
An aviation source said the pilot had told the tower that he was experiencing problems with the plane, but further details were not yet clear.
The plane, which was flying to Lagos from the capital Abuja, crashed near the airport, damaging buildings and setting off an inferno in the poor and densely populated neighbourhood located in the city’s northern outskirts.
Chaos broke out after the crash, with rescue workers facing large crowds and aggressive soldiers while trying to access smoldering wreckage in the hunt for survivors.
While tear gas was fired at one point on Monday morning, the scene was generally much more calm, with a heavy security deployment in place.
Nigeria has a spotty aviation record, although Dana had been considered to be a relatively safe and reasonably efficient domestic airline since it began operating in 2008.
A spokesman for Nigeria’s Accident Investigations Bureau said all 153 people on board the plane were considered dead. The number of those killed on the ground was unclear.
A spokesman for the airline said the plane was carrying 147 passengers and six crew. China said six of its nationals were on the plane.
In the aftermath of the crash, thick smoke rose from the area and flames could be seen shooting from a two-storey building.
Thousands of onlookers had partially blocked access to the crash site on Sunday, prompting soldiers to try to clear out the area, using rubber whips and their fists. One even threw a wooden plank at those crowded around.
The area 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.
Some residents said it appeared that the plane had nosedived into the neighbourhood while others described it as swaying back and forth before crashing.
“It was waving, waving, waving,” Yusuf Babatunde, 26, said at the scene. “The pilot was struggling to control it. It crashed — it just started burning.”
An official with the National Emergency Management Agency said the plane had crashed into two buildings, a church and the two-storey residential structure.
At least three people had been transported for treatment with relatively minor wounds, he said, in addition to the bodies pulled out of the wreckage.
The president’s office said in a statement that Jonathan had “directed that the Nigerian flag be flown at half-mast for the three days of national mourning.
“Meanwhile, the president has ordered the fullest possible investigation into the crash,” it added.
Lagos, the largest city in Africa’s most populous nation, is home to an estimated 15 million people.
The accident followed another plane crash Saturday in the capital of nearby Ghana, when a cargo plane overshot 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.
Ghanaians never expected their 2012 Africa Cup of Nations experience would end like this. The Black Stars were tournament favourites and analysts predicted a final between Ghana and Ivory Coast. But a 78th-minute goal by Zambian Emmanuel Mayuka at the Bata stadium in Equatorial Guinea ruined Ghana’s hopes of lifting the cup for a fifth time and fans following the game back home on outdoor big screens were crushed.
The game could have turned out very differently had Asamoah Gyan not missed an eighth-minute penalty. Ghana dominated the game but struggled to create chances.
“Now we are very disappointed, we should have won the cup and now we cannot determine when we would win it again,” said Gideon Ofori a fan in Accra.
A fervent Zambia side pushed Ghana — some analysts say the southern African copper bullets were inspired by the opportunity to honor the players that died in a plane crash in 1993 off the coast of Gabon, the venue of their final clash against Ivory Coast on Sunday (February 12).
Ghana’s performance brought back bitter taste of the 2010 World Cup where they managed to reach the semi final but not the final.
“We should recruit the young ones and train them better because we should not rely on the senior ones, they are always giving us heart problems, you know when we follow them we will waste our time on football,” said Michael Ahorsu, another Ghanaian fan.
In Mali, fans also in outdoor screening venues were less tense yet hopeful that Mali could cause an upset against Ivory Coast, in the same way Zambia had against Ghana just over an hour before.
But an individual goal from Gervinho put Ivory Coast into the African Nations Cup final with a 1-0 win.
Ivory Coast proved too powerful for their fellow West Africans and might have won by a bigger margin but both sides were visibly tired and struggled to find their rythm.
Fans in Bamako said they were proud of their Seydou Keita-led team for making it to the semi finals even though they did not reach the final.
“We have never had a team like this. Frankly speaking these are youngsters that have all the future for them, and in every respect the people of Mali are ready to motivate them. Sincere thanks to the trainer, because we Malians didn’t expect the Malian team to come so far. We are happy in every respect and very satisfied with them, they did a good job,” said Yacoube Kante, a Malian fan.
“They showed us something with the match today. I am very satisfied with them, very proud of them. I appreciate today’s performance. We are all happy and no one is disappointed, except they didn’t win, but that’s a matter of luck,” said Keita Soire, another fan.
Sunday’s match will be third final for the Ivory Coast, who won the tournament in 1992.
Zambia will also play their third final having previously lost in 1974 and 1994.