BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE & BEN AGANDE
LAGOS — CALL it a weekend of disaster and you will not be wrong. Beginning from Thursday, Nigeria, the world’s largest black nation has been engulfed in a series of air and land tragedies that have claimed about 267 lives and destroyed property worth billions of Naira.
Yesterday’s Dana Airlines commercial aircraft crash at Iju, Lagos, which claimed about 170 lives, one of the worst air crashes in Nigeria’s history, caps a weekend of tragedies, which began on Thursday.
Although peace has become a scarce commodity in many northern cities of the country on account bombing activities in recent times, the southwestern part, including Lagos, the economic nerve-centre has had no respite since last Thursday.
In two unrelated accidents between Lagos and Ibadan, last Thursday, 10 persons were killed. At Ibafo along Lagos-Ibadan expressway, five persons were burnt in a multiple accident and explosions involving nine fuel tankers while a building under construction at New Covenant Church, Sagbe, Ojoo, Ibadan collapsed during a downpour and claimed five persons including two women.
On Saturday, another fuel tanker explosion, which claimed 24 vehicles rocked the ever-busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The tragedy occurred at Danco Village in Obafemi Owode Local Council of Ogun State. The citizenry were still absorbing the effects of the tanker explosions when the news of the death of 30 people in Assakyo, headquarters of Lafia Local Council Development Area of Nasarawa State broke. They were killed following renewed violence between Alago and Beron communities. And on the same day, an accident in Funtua, Katsina State, claimed three persons and injured 17others.
Still thirsty for blood, the agents of death remained on prowl yesterday. First, nine people were killed and 40 others injured when a suicide bomber in a Honda Civic, who attempted to force his way into the iron barricade at the entrance of Living Faith Church, Ungwan Angas, Yelwa, Bauchi State but was denied entry detonated his explosives at the barrier opposite the church.
Even in Ghana, the disaster continued when Allied Airplane Cargo Boeing 727 aircraft crash landed, hit a van and killed 10 persons. And then the chilling Iju disaster, which occurred at about 3 p.m Aside killing the 154 persons on board, the crash also killed about 16 persons ground.
On its destruction path, the plane destroyed two three-storey buildings before burying itself inside a warehouse. Also destroyed was an uncompleted building and a church building. Charred remains of the dead littered the scene as rescue workers battled through the thick smoke of the burning aircraft and crowd to search for survivors.
Lack of gas masks, rubber gloves and the surging crowd impeded the efforts of rescue workers made up of soldiers, police, Lagos State Emergency Aganecy (LASEMA), the Nigerian Red Cross and men of the Fire Service. So far only a man, a nursing mother, her baby and the grandmother were rescued from one of the collapsed buildings. Efforts to speak with the survivors were thwarted by doctors administering first aid on them and the area has been cordoned off by security agents.
I have lost everything I have to Dana plane crash, says BAT worker
A contract staff with the British American Tobacco Company, Mr Isaac Daniel, who resides in the two-storey building where the Dana plane crashed said he lost everything he had to the incident.
Daniel told the News Agency of Nigeria that he resided at the ground floor of the building with five members of his family.
He said that all his family members survived the crash but lost their certificates to the inferno, adding that he was not at home when the incident occurred.
Eye-witnesses said that three lifeless bodies had been removed from the wrecked building.
Rescue teams, including the Fire Service and the Lagos State Ambulance Services were not able to get to the scene of wreckage as large crowd of people made it impossible for the rescue teams to have access. The police were helpless as crowds of people thronged the area to have a glimpse of the incident.
FG declares three days of national mourning, order investigations
Shocked by the disaster, President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a three-day national mourning for all those, who lost their lives in the Dana plane crash.
A statement issued in Abuja by the Special Adviser to the President on Communications, Reuben Abati said president Jonathan has also “ordered the fullest possible investigation into the crash.”
As part of the national mourning, the president has cancelled all his public engagements scheduled for today.
He has also directed that the Nigerian flag be flown at half-mast for the three days of national mourning.
In compliance with the President’s directive of full investigation, the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah has relocated to Lagos to oversee the crash investigations and present an interim report to the Federal Government as quickly as possible.
The statement added that “the President joins all Nigerians in mourning all those who lost their lives in the plane crash which has sadly plunged the nation into further sorrow on a day when Nigerians were already in grief over the loss of many other innocent lives in the church bombing in Bauchi State.
“President Jonathan assures air travelers in the country that every possible effort will be made to ensure that the right lessons are learnt from the tragic loss of valuable lives in today’s plane crash and that further measures will be put in place to boost aviation safety in the country
“He prays that God Almighty will grant the families of the victims of the plane crash the courage and fortitude to bear their irreparable loss” the statement concluded.
Also, the Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oodua told NAN that she was saddened by the news and was already on her way to the crash site.
“I am extremely saddened by the news of the crash and I assure the nation that investigations are underway,” she said.