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Last Updated: Monday, 24 October 2005, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Nigeria mourns air crash victims
Rescue workers carry the remains of a victim of a plane crash in Nigeria
It is not yet known what caused the plane to crash soon after take-off
Nigeria has declared three days of national mourning for the passengers and crew of a commercial airliner which crashed on Saturday night.

All 117 people on board the Bellview Airlines Boeing 737 were killed shortly after take-off from Lagos.

The aircraft, which was on its way to the capital, Abuja, came down in the northern outskirts of Lagos after sending a distress call.

The cause of the crash is still being investigated.

Recovery teams have been sifting through the debris, and the "black box" flight recorders have reportedly been found.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has urged all Nigerians to pray for the victims and their families.

Violent impact

The pilot of Bellview Airlines flight 210 sent a distress signal just after taking off from Lagos for Abuja in stormy weather at 2045 local time (1945 GMT) on Saturday.

NIGERIA PLANE CRASHES
May 2002: Plane operated by EAS Airlines crashes in Kano, killing 148 people - half of them on the ground
November 1996: 142 people die when Boeing 727 owned by Nigeria's ADC airline plunges into lagoon 85km (55 miles) from Lagos
September 1992: 158 people are killed when military transport plane goes down near Lagos

The plane was found near the village of Lissa, in Ogun state, about 50km (30 miles) north of Lagos.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa says there was a putrid smell at the scene.

He says it is believed that many passengers are buried underground in the plane's wreckage, while the plane's wings felled trees around the site.

"It is not possible to get a complete body of any victim. The bodies were scattered all over the place. Some human parts were hanging on trees," said Nigerian Red Cross official Bayo Fasoranti.

There had been conflicting reports at first about whether anyone survived, but officials at the scene said no-one could have survived the plane's impact.

Nigerian television broadcast images of mangled bodies, twisted chunks of metal and ripped luggage at the scene.

Personnel problems

There are dozens of flights each day between Nigeria's biggest city, Lagos, and Abuja.

Bellview Airlines has suspended all its flights from Lagos. The company's management said the crash was the first by one of its planes in the company's 12-year history.

The airline is a private Nigerian company, popular with foreigners and wealthy Nigerians, which flies routes throughout West Africa, mainly using Boeing 737s.

Kieran Daly, editor of the Air Transport Intelligence online newsletter, told the BBC's Network Africa programme that Nigeria's air safety record is not great but that "the number of truly serious accidents is not as high as people imagine".

He said those countries with poor air safety records generally had a problem with oversight by the authorities.

Many African countries had a problem finding enough resources and qualified personnel to ensure that rules were being obeyed, he said.

After Sunday's crash, the government briefly closed down Daar Communications, which operates the local AIT television station and Ray Power radio, saying the stations had displayed gross professional misconduct in their reporting of the incident.

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) said AIT had broadcast "close up shot of decapitated body parts".

Daar officials say the government was unhappy that the station broadcast pictures from the scene while aviation authorities were saying the plane had crashed much further north.

The authorities were also reportedly unhappy that AIT mistakenly said that the president's wife, Stella Obasanjo, who died in Spain on Sunday, was born in 1935, rather than 1945.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch scenes from the crash




SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Nigerian plane crash
23 Oct 05 |  In Pictures
Virgin takes to Nigeria's skies
28 Sep 04 |  Business
Country profile: Nigeria
11 Oct 05 |  Country profiles


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