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Rescuers sift through plane wreck

Posted by ABC News Online on 2005/10/23 | Views: 2552 |

Rescuers sift through plane wreck

Nigerian rescuers are struggling to gather and identify hundreds of body parts scattered amid smoking debris at the site of an airliner crash, which has killed 117 people.

Nigerian rescuers are struggling to gather and identify hundreds of body parts scattered amid smoking debris at the site of an airliner crash, which has killed 117 people.

Local villagers say the Boeing 737 jet appeared to explode in mid-air as it fought its way northwards through a thunderstorm shortly after nightfall on Saturday.

Hunks of wreckage are buried in eight-metre deep craters amid a twisted, corpse-strewn landscape.

"The Federal Government announces with regret the unfortunate air crash of Bellview Airlines ... which resulted in the loss of life of all passengers and crew on board," a government statement said.

"This is national disaster. Not a single (person) was rescued alive," Police Commissioner Tunji Alapini, of Ogun State, said.

Commissioner Alapini's men were the first to reach the crash site in Lissa, a village near the town of Otta, which is a short distance north of the Nigerian commercial capital Lagos.

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye says the wreckage of the Bellview Airlines flight hit the ground so fast it was "completely buried".

"No survivors have been identified so far ... The plane is actually is beyond recognition," Abiodun Orebiyi, the secretary general of the Nigerian Red Cross, said.

Several homes in Lissa have been flattened in the crash.

However, Mr Orebiyi says local residents have escaped with minor injuries despite being traumatised.


Lissa farmer Hammed Ijalaye said: "We heard a very loud noise and then all of a sudden we heard a very big bang.

"We thought it was a bomb explosion and we were all very scared."

Other witnesses corroborate this account of an explosion preceding the crash.

Separately, the wife of a senior west African official who died on the flight, General Cheik Oumar Diarra, says he has been told by his colleagues that the plane had blown apart.

"They called to tell us that he is dead. There was no survivor. The plane exploded in mid-air," General Diarra's wife N'Deye Marie said.

Nigerian investigators have no early explanation for the disaster.

The jet took off from Lagos airport shortly after nightfall on Saturday with 111 passengers and six crew on board, according to the flight manifest.

A US official had confirmed that a US military officer was aboard the aircraft.

Diplomats and airline officials say the flight was believed to be carrying a top official of the Economic Community of West African States, a Nigerian presidential aide, two Britons and a German.

Flight 210 was headed for Nigeria's political capital, Abuja, but after it banked around over Africa's biggest city and turned northwards disaster struck.


Helicopters were scrambled to find the missing jet, amid conflicting reports that it had plunged into the sea or had crashed near the town of Kishi, 400 kilometres north of Lagos.

Officials initially briefed reporters that rescue crews had reached the alleged Kishi crash site and were confident that more than half the passengers had survived a crash landing.

Later, after a television crew found plane wreckage and corpses a short distance outside Lagos in woods near Otta, Information Minister Frank Nwekwe said the earlier report had been a mistake.



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