Accident investigation crews, the police and fire services are part of general search and rescue operations that have been impeded by a variety of factors at the scene of Sunday’s MD 83 airliner crash in Lagos, Nigeria.
With police and emergency services appearing to be helpless, a majority of the victims of the crash are yet to be evacuated. Residents of the area took over the unsecured crash scene despite dangerous gas fumes in the area.
The 22-year old aircraft, operated by Dana Air with 153 passengers on board, crashed at Popoola Street, Iju Ishaga area of Lagos city, reportedly killing atlas 10 people on the ground as well as 153 people on board.
Residents rescued a little girl from a house affected by the crash, but another little girl was reported to have died when she was thrown downstairs by her mother in a burning building.
Apart from the aircrew and the passengers aboard the plane, several people were injured and several houses also destroyed by the crash. Residents told Saharareporters that they were mostly relaxing at home on Sunday watching the soccer match between Nigeria and Namibia at 4.00pm, when the troubled aircraft crashed, catching them unawares.
The baby that died reportedly belonged to a woman who threw her downstairs following the crash as fire enveloped her building. The baby died a few minutes later, as she was said to have landed on her head. The woman herself broke one of her legs as she jumped to escape the fire.
Eyewitnesses who saw the plane struggling to maintain altitude before crashing to the ground said the plane had almost crashed into Longe Private Hospital in the area, but that it suddenly regained some thrust of engine power, only to go on and crash into several buildings three streets away from the hospital.
“We saw it swerving on the roof of Longe Hospital and then we knew something was wrong with the plane. But suddenly it picked up again and went forward until it could no longer pick, then it crashed”, said Mr. Ajadi as he fetched water to help extinguish the fire on the scene.
A new two-storey building bore the brunt of the crash as the aircraft appeared have crashing into it on its belly. The building was vacant at the time of the crash as the inhabitants were away to the church.
A printing press company close to that house was also affected. Copies of freshly-printed textbooks littered the vicinity of the crash site. Visible fractures sustained by the standing wall of the company indicated it might soon collapse.
A female survivor said she could not secure even a needle from her apartment. “Not even a pin, I could not get anything out of my room. It was a neighbor that gave me the [trousers] I’m wearing now”, she said, evidence of the accident obvious all over her body.
Several bodies are yet to be recovered from a building, which was destroyed by the crash. A huge crowd formed around the destroyed building to watch the carcass of the aircraft. The fallen plane, with parts scattered all over the place, sits on the mutilated bodies of the dead passengers, several of them burnt beyond recognition, which are yet to be removed from under the plane.
A search and rescue team member said the operations are impeded because they lack the necessary equipment to move the fuselage of the plane for proper accident investigation. He said a deadly fume oozing out of the crashed plane poses a lot of danger to residents. “We ought to have completely secured the crash scene but we can’t even do it, the residents have taken over.”