By The Associated Press
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A passenger plane carrying more than 150 people crashed in Nigeria’s largest city on Sunday, government officials said. Firefighters pulled at least one body from a building that was damaged by the crash and searched for survivors as several charred corpses could be seen in the rubble.
Casualty figures were not yet known, said Lagos state emergency manager Femi Oke-Osanyinpolu.
The Lagos state government said in a statement that 153 people were on the Dana Air flight Sunday.
Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, said they were still trying to get an official manifest on the flight. Sometimes flights in Nigeria issue paper tickets and don’t record all passengers via computer.
“I don’t think there will be any survivors,” said witness Praise Richard. “It would take a miracle.”
Richard said he was watching a film when he heard a loud explosion that sounded like a bomb. He rushed outside and saw massive smoke and flames rising from the crash site around 3:45 p.m.
The Dana Air flight was flying from Abuja to Lagos, according to the head of Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority, Harold Denuren.
The plane did not to appear to have nose-dived into a building, but seemed to have landed on its belly. It first crashed through a furniture shop and then into residential buildings next to the workshop in this densely packed neighborhood.
The nose of the plane was embedded into the three-story apartment building, damaging only one part of the structure. Fire still smoldered everywhere as a group of men stood atop the landing gear that was smoking and took pictures with their mobile phones.
At the crash site, an Associated Press reporter saw parts of the plane’s seat signs scattered around. Firefighters tried to put out the smoldering flames of a jet engine and carried at least one corpse from the building that continued to crumble. Several thousand people looked on.
Two fire trucks and about 50 rescue personnel were at the site after the plane went down. Some of those gathered around the site helped firefighters bring in the water hoses from their trucks.
The Nigerian Red Cross arrived, as well as Nigeria’s air crash safety investigators.
A military helicopter flew overhead. The sound of the crowd was also occasionally punctuated by the noise of aircraft still landing at the airport.
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.
In August 2010, the U.S. announced it had given Nigeria the FAA’s Category 1 status, its top safety rating that allows the nation’s domestic carriers to fly directly to the U.S.
The Nigerian government said it also now has full radar coverage of the entire nation. However, in a nation where the state-run electricity company is in tatters, state power and diesel generators sometimes both fail at airports, making radar screens go blank.
Associated Press writers Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria and Yinka Ibukun in Lagos, Nigeria contributed to this report.