Lagos: Nigeria plunged into a state of mourning on Monday after a horrific air tragedy saw a passenger plane crash into a residential area, killing all 153 people on board including an Indian co-pilot, and over 40 others on the ground.

The pilot of the ill-fated plane had sent out emergency signals while nearing the runway indicating a technical problem but the Boeing MD-83 plane, belonging to Dana Air, an Indian-owned company, went down near the airport shortly afterwards.

Fears mounted on Monday that a large number of people may have been killed on the ground besides all 153 passengers and crew on board as rescuers still struggled to clear the massive wreck and pull out the bodies.

The plane flying from Nigerian capital Abuja to Lagos, had an American pilot, who was being assisted by an Indian co-pilot, aviation authorities said.

Rani Malik, the consular officer of the Indian High Commission in Lagos said, that the name of the Indian co-pilot was Mahendra Singh Rathore.

A source said the plane had an Indonesian flight engineer on board. Rescue workers on Monday recovered additional 40 bodies who were not in the aircraft but either in the building where the plane crashed or standing near the road.

Harold Demureen, the head of the country's Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said that the cause of the fatal landing was yet to be known by his agency.

According to him, the flight declared an emergency with the control tower on approaching the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos. The black box of the aircraft has been found and handed over to authorities for investigation.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared three days of national mourning and ordered an investigation into the cause of the crash.

In a statement, Jonathan said that the crash had "sadly plunged the nation into further sorrow on a day when Nigerians were already in grief over the loss of many other innocent lives in the church bombing in Bauchi state".

While there were no survivors on the plane, there was still no final account of how many people might have died on the ground.

Emergency officials said it was unclear how many people were inside the building and on the street outside at the time of the crash.

The Chinese embassy said six of its nationals were on the plane. Besides, two Major Generals, many members of staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and several top personalities were also on board, reports said.

Cranes cleared the still-flaming debris to allow rescue workers better access to the densely populated crash area.

As the plane plunged towards the ground, it damaged buildings and set off a huge inferno.

The plane crashed in an area containing what the residents said was a church, a printing shop and a two storey residential building.
Crowds of residents surrounded the crash site, delaying emergency services from searching for survivors.

For hours, the area around the crash site was not cordoned off as the mass of people packed the area. The fires made it difficult for people to see what was happening, as well as to breathe.

The nose of the plane was embedded in the three-storey apartment building, damaging only part of the structure. Smoke billowed from the windows and roof of the building that had somehow survived being completely demolished by the crash.

Nigeria has a poor aviation record, though Dana had been considered to be a relatively safe and reasonably efficient domestic airline. It began flights in 2008 and had been operating up to 27 daily flights.

The Dana group, whose chairman is Ramesh Hathiramani, is into the business of pharmaceutical drugs, plastics, automobiles, electronics and airlines.

On May 11, a similar Dana Air plane developed a technical problem and was forced to make an emergency landing in Lagos, BBC said.

Sunday's crash appeared to be one of the worst in the country. The deadliest came in July 1991, when all 261 on board a Nigerian

Airways airliner died after its landing gear caught fire shortly after takeoff in Saudi Arabia en route to Nigeria, and the plane went down.

About 225 people were killed in two crashes that occurred within two months of each other in late 2005.


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