Nigeria: At Least 106 Dead in Plane Crash

Nigeria's president said Sunday that at least 106 people died when an airliner went down shortly after takeoff, slamming into buildings and mosques in a working-class neighborhood of the northern city of Kano.

The Nigerian EAS airlines jet that crashed Saturday was carrying 76 people, and dozens are believed to have been killed on the ground.

President Olusegun Obasanjo cut short a trip to Botswana after Saturday's crash, and said flags would fly at half-staff for two days. He promised an investigation into the crash.

In a radio address, Obasanjo said that "106 passengers and people in their homes were picked up dead" after the crash.

The twin-engine jet crashed about half a mile from the airport. It tore a three-block swath through mosques and homes, scattering corpses and debris through the area.

At least two people on board survived, aviation authorities said Saturday -- one a passenger who rose from his seat amid the wreckage and staggered away. The other survivor was a female crew member.

Obasanjo did not say how many of the dead were on the ground. On Saturday, a baby girl was carried away with her burned body wrapped in a yellow rug. Her mother walked alongside, weeping.

Associated Press journalists on the scene soon after the crash saw wailing residents carrying bodies out from amid 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."

The plane clipped the minaret of one mosque and smashed full force into a second. Kano is in Nigeria's heavily Islamic north.

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.

Thousands of Nigerians crowded the ruined neighborhood, crying out in the still-smoldering rubble each time a body was found.

Young men carried each body out on their shoulders, crying, "God is Great."

Initial reports on private radio said there were 105 people on board. Okafor put the number at 76, including crew members.

The passengers onboard included Nigeria's sports minister as well as a number of local dignitaries who had attended the launch in Kano of a biography by Nigeria's former U.N. ambassador Maitama Sule, radio stations reported. The reports could not be independently verified.

The British Aerospace twin-engine jet belonged to Nigeria's private EAS Airlines. It had taken off for Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos, 435 miles south of Kano, Okafor said. It crashed at 1:30 p.m.

Aviation authorities said they were searching for the plane's black box, hoping for clues to the crash.

Nigeria's heavily competitive domestic carriers have been locked in a price war in recent months. Some Nigerians have feared maintenance would suffer as a result.

Overall, however, despite having a number of old planes, the airlines in the large West African nation had not had a major crash since the mid-1990s.