Nigerian plane crash kills 99

Updated: 2006-10-30 10:51

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Officials, emergency and Red Cross workers are seen at the crash site of an ADC Airlines airplane in Abuja, October 29, 2006. [

A Nigerian passenger jet crashed shortly after takeoff from the capital Abuja on Sunday, killing 99 people including the leader of the nation's 70 million Muslims.

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Officials said 106 people were on board the Boeing 737 flight to the northern city of Sokoto when it ploughed into a corn field about 2 km (1 mile) from the runway.

Seven people survived the crash. It brought the number killed in Nigerian air accidents to at least 335 in the last year.

A Reuters correspondent saw burned bodies, some missing limbs or heads, being loaded onto trucks from the smouldering remains of the fuselage.

Only the plane's tail, an engine and part of a wing were still recognisable at the crash site, an area the size of a football field littered with body parts, smouldering fires and shreds of clothes, bags and metal.

"The smell is something you don't want to remember," said Steve Noble, a British diplomat at the scene.

Among the dead was Ibrahim Muhammadu, who as Sultan of Sokoto was the leader of the Muslim community which makes up about half of Africa's most populous nation.

"The plane crash that happened in Abuja led to the death of our beloved Sultan ... among about 100 people," the governor of Sokoto state, Attahiru Bafarawa, told reporters.

The late news bulletin on state television showed images of the sultan's coffin being buried in Sokoto by a crowd of men in white robes. His son, a senator, also died in the crash.

The Sokoto governor declared six days of mourning for the sultan, who was also the top traditional ruler of northern Nigeria. A respected figure, he helped to curb religious bloodshed in the central state of Plateau in 2004.


The director of Abuja's National Hospital, speaking on state television, said seven survivors had been brought in, of whom six were in a stable condition and one was in intensive care.

The minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasir el-Rufai, said the crash took place in bad weather but added that only a detailed investigation could determine the cause.

ADC is a popular domestic airline with an ageing fleet of Boeing jets.

It was the fourth significant air crash in Nigeria in just over a year.

On October 22 last year, 117 people died when a Bellview Airlines Boeing 737 crashed in the countryside shortly after takeoff from the commercial capital Lagos.

Seven weeks later, a Sosoliso Airlines DC9 crashed on landing in Port Harcourt, the oil industry hub in the southeast. The crash killed 106 people, half of whom were children on their way home from boarding school for the Christmas break.

And on September 17 this year, 10 army generals and three other military personnel were killed when a small air force plane crashed in central Benue state.

The latest tragedy comes a month before the aviation industry is due to undergo an audit. After last year's crashes, President Olusegun Obasanjo had ordered airlines and aviation authorities to improve safety standards.

Air traffic in Nigeria has more than doubled to over 8 million passengers a year in the last seven years, but the ageing airports and fleets have struggled to cope with the boom.

Abuja airport remained open on Sunday, with flights arriving and leaving as usual even though emergency vehicles were racing across the tarmac on their way to and from the crash site.