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Nigeria Mourns Kano Plane Crash Victims - 2002-05-05

Flags are to fly at half-mast throughout Nigeria Sunday and Monday on the orders of President Olusegun Obasanjo. In a radio and television broadcast, he also offered his condolences to families of the crash victims.

The president, who cut short his tour of Southern African states because of the tragedy, said in the early Sunday morning address that he was addressing the nation with a heavy heart.

The accident involved a privately owned Executive Airline Services -- and happened minutes after take-off from a Kano airport. The BAC 1-11-500 aircraft then crashed into a populated area of the city, killing all but five of its 69 passengers and eight crew members.

Many more people died on the ground as the plane smashed into several buildings, including mosques. Witnesses say rescue workers are still battling to retrieve bodies from collapsed structures. Already, hospital sources say Kano's morgues are full to capacity. Off-duty health workers have been recalled to provide emergency services to the injured.

Among those confirmed killed in the crash is Nigeria’s Sports Minister - Ishaya Mark Aku. He was on his way to Lagos on an official engagement.

President Obasanjo has ordered an immediate probe into the accident. He says foreign experts will be called in to help if necessary.

Meanwhile, the management of the airline has issued a statement saying it regrets the loss of lives. It also promised to cooperate fully with aviation authorities to ascertain the cause of the disastor.