Nigerian plane crashes with over 100 aboard

A Nigerian airliner reportedly carrying 104 people, including the man regarded as the spiritual leader of Muslims in Nigeria, crashed in a storm yesterday just after taking off from the capital's airport. Dozens were killed, and aviation officials in the West African country said six people survived.

Debris from the shattered plane, body parts and personal belongings of passengers were strewn over an area the size of a football field where the plane went down in a wooded area, a witness said. The crash site was about three kilometres from the end of the runway at the airport in Abuja.

Smoke rose from the plane's mangled and smoldering fuselage as rescue workers pulled out burned corpses. About 50 bodies were gathered in a corner of the site. The tail of the plane was hanging from a tree.

State radio said the Boeing 727 crashed shortly after taking off from the airport in Abuja during a storm. Witnesses said there was a rainstorm at around the time the aircraft took off.

Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, said the plane was carrying 104 passengers and crew members. Speaking at the crash site, he said "six survivors have been evacuated to hospital."

A local radio station, Ray Power FM, reported the plane was owned by Aviation Development Co, a private Nigerian airline.

The aircraft was headed to the northwest city of Sokoto, private Channels Television and state radio said. Channels had earlier reported the plane was headed to Lagos.

Among those aboard was the sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Maccido, according to Mustapha Shehu, spokesman for the Sokoto state government. Maccido is the head of the National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria. The body announces when Muslim fasts should begin and end, and decides issues of policy for Nigeria's overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims.

Shehu said the sultan's son, Muhammed Maccido, a senator, was also aboard, along with Abdulrahman Shehu Shagari, son of former Nigerian President Shehu Shagari, who was in office between 1979 and 1983. Theirs and the sultan's fates were not immediately clear.

About half of Nigeria's 130 million people are Muslims. The country is the most populous in Africa and the continent's leading oil exporter.

At the airport in Abuja, security officials kept away a crush of people seeking information about friends or family aboard the plane.

President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered an immediate investigation into the cause, his spokeswoman Remi Oyo said in a statement.

Oyo said Obasanjo was "deeply and profoundly shocked and saddened ... he condoles all Nigerians, especially family, friends and associates of those who may have been on board."

The Nigerian airline ADC last suffered a crash in November 1996, when one of its jets plunged into a lagoon outside Nigeria's main city, Lagos, killing all 143 aboard.

Last year, two Nigerian planes flying domestic routes crashed within seven weeks, killing 224 people.

Source: China Daily

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