Plane smashes into Nigerian city

Sunday, May 5, 2002

KANO, Nigeria -- A Nigerian airliner taking off with 76 people aboard tore a three-block swath through mosques and homes in the northern city of Kano on Saturday, scattering charred corpses and blood-and-soot covered plane seats through a terrified working-class neighborhood.

At least two people on board survived, aviation authorities said -- one, a passenger who rose from his seat amid the wreckage and staggered away.

The other known survivor from the plane was a female crew member, said John Okafor, spokesman for Nigeria's federal airport authority.

There was no firm word on overall casualties. But dozens were feared dead on the ground -- one, a baby girl, was carried away with her burned body wrapped in a yellow rug. Her mother walked alongside, weeping.

Witnesses on the scene soon after the crash saw wailing, screaming people of the neighborhood carrying bodies from among the plane's shattered parts and the ruins of dozens of buildings.

Residents said the plane tore along at roof level for several blocks, shearing off tin roofs and top stories of modest concrete homes, before hitting the ground and exploding.

"It was turning and wobbling," resident Umar Suleman said. "It came down and I thought it was going to hit the mosque, but it looked like it went just past it, and then it hit the houses.

"And after that, everyone was running and screaming."

Smashing mosque

The plane clipped the minaret of one mosque and smashed full force into a second mosque.

Residents feared especially for anyone who may have been inside praying, in this city in heavily Islamic northern Nigeria.

The tail of the plane jutted out of one man's house. Another part, from the engine, lay in the middle of a street on top of a dead goat.

Plane seats covered with gore and soot lay scattered.

Suleman talked of finding one man still in his seat in the wreckage. Blood covered his forehead. Residents helped the shocked man walk away.

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