LAGOS, Nigeria A commercial airliner crashed into a densely populated neighborhood in Nigerias largest city on Sunday, killing all 153 people on board and others on the ground in the worst air disaster in nearly two decades for the troubled nation.
The cause of the Dana Air crash remained unknown Sunday night, as firefighters and police struggled to put out the flames around the wreckage of the Boeing MD83 aircraft. Authorities could not control the crowd of thousands gathered around to see the crash site, with some crawling over the planes broken wings and standing on a still-smoldering landing gear.
Harold Demuren, the director-general of Nigerias Civil Aviation Authority, said all on board the flight were killed in the crash. Lagos state government said in a statement that 153 people were on the flight traveling from Nigerias central capital of Abuja to Lagos in the nations southwest.
The flights pilots radioed to the Lagos control tower just before the crash, saying the plane had engine trouble, a military official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to journalists.
Rescue officials feared many others were killed or injured on the ground, but no casualty figures were immediately available. Firefighters and local residents were seen carrying the corpse of a man from one building, its walls still crumbling and flames shooting from its roof more than an hour after the crash.
President Goodluck Jonathan later declared three days of national mourning in Africas most populous nation.
The aircraft appeared to have landed on its belly into the dense neighborhood that sits along the typical approach path taken by aircraft heading into Lagos Murtala Muhammed International Airport. The plane tore through roofs, sheared a mango tree and rammed into a woodworking studio, a printing press and at least two large apartment buildings in the neighborhood before stopping.
A white, noxious cloud rose from the crash site that burned onlookers eyes, as pieces of the plane lay scattered around the muddy ground.