A Nigerian jetliner carrying 110 people, most of them schoolchildren heading home for Christmas, crashed in a lightning storm Saturday while landing in this delta oil port, officials said. At least 103 people were killed.
A spokesman for President Olusegun Obasanjo called the disaster "a national tragedy."
A spokesman for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Sam Adurogboye, said early reports indicated that seven people survived the crash of the Sosoliso Airlines' McDonnell Douglas DC-9, which flew out of the capital, Abuja.
"They were breathing and were taken to the hospital. They are responding to treatment," Adurogboye said. He did not say if the survivors were passengers or crew members.
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.
"The place where I'm standing now is scattered with corpses," the worker said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
Frantic family members at the airport said the plane was carrying 75 pupils heading home for Christmas. The children, students at the Loyola Jesuit School, were between 12 and 16 years old.
"It is a national tragedy for us," Obasanjo's spokesman, Femi Fani-Kayode, said. "We need to take all the necessary measures to make sure this sort of thing stops happening."
Adurogboye said there was stormy weather around the airport when the plane crashed at 2:08 p.m., and witnesses reported seeing lightning flashes as the plane approached the runway in this southern port city.
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. [Its fleet included three aging DC-9 airliners; the one that crashed was one of a series that went into service in 1967, Agence France-Presse reported.]
Information Minister Frank Nweke said Sosoliso had a reputation for efficiency and reliability. "To my knowledge they haven't had any incidents since they started their operation," Nweke said. "So this has come as a surprise, a very big surprise."
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 to Lagos's international airport because of holes in the runway.
In October, an Abuja-bound Boeing 737-200 crashed after taking off from the airport at Lagos, killing 117 people on board the Bellview Airlines flight.
After the October crash, Obasanjo ordered stricter safety and maintenance procedures for all Nigerian aircraft, directing the Aviation Ministry to "plug loopholes" to ensure passenger safety.