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Nigeria jet crash kills 103, mostly children

Nigeria jet crash kills 103, mostly children

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PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria - A Nigerian jetliner filled with schoolchildren going home for Christmas crashed Saturday while landing during a lightning storm in this delta oil port. At least 103 people were killed, officials said.

A spokesman for President Olusegun Obasanjo called the disaster "a national tragedy."

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Sam Adurogboye said early reports indicated that seven people survived the crash of the Sosoliso Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-9. Flight 1145 left the capital, Abuja.

"They were breathing and were taken to the hospital. They are responding to treatment," Adurogboye said.

He did not say whether the survivors were passengers or crew members.

Sosoliso spokesman Simbo Olorufemi would only confirm that the crash had occurred, saying, "Most of the passengers might have lost their lives."

The crash was Nigeria's second airplane accident in seven weeks - raising questions about air safety in Africa's most populous nation.

An airport worker said burned bodies lay across the landing area after the plane broke into pieces.

Frantic family members at the airport said the plane was carrying 75 pupils heading home from Abuja for Christmas. The pupils, students at the Loyola Jesuit School, were between 12 and 16 years old.

Adurogboye said there was stormy weather around the airport at the time of the 2:08 p.m. crash, and witnesses reported seeing lightning flashes as the plane approached the runway.

Nigerian-owned Sosoliso Airlines was established in 1994. It began scheduled flights as a domestic airline in July 2000 and now flies to six Nigerian cities, according to its Web site.

Information Minister Frank Nweke said Sosoliso had a reputation for being efficient and reliable.

Nigerian airports have come under criticism in recent months following a string of near-misses and an incident in which an Air France passenger jet crashed into a herd of cows on the runway at Port Harcourt.

International airlines also briefly suspended flights at Lagos' international airport because of holes in the runway.

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