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Nigerian Plane Crash Death Toll Rises - 2002-05-06

Workers in the northern Nigerian city of Kano continue to search through the wreckage of a passenger jet that crashed into a crowded neighborhood Saturday. Monday marked a second day of mourning for victims of the disaster, as Red Cross officials said the death toll had risen to 148.

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo visited the scene of the crash early Monday under heavy security. The Nigerian leader repeated a pledge he had made Sunday, saying the government would work to ensure that a thorough inquiry be carried out on the cause of the crash.

Mr. Obasanjo said the government will set aside about $86,000 to assist families of the crash victims.

On Sunday, he called for flags across Nigeria to be flown at half staff through Monday in remembrance of the victims.

The BAC 1-11 jet, operated by EAS Airlines, slammed into a densely-populated neighborhood Saturday after taking off from the Kano airport on a domestic flight to Nigeria's main city, Lagos. Rescue workers said they expect the death toll to continue to rise as they pick through the debris of the airplane and the rubble of about 30 homes that were destroyed in the crash.

Recovery efforts have been hampered by what rescue workers say is a lack of equipment to remove the heavier pieces of debris. Also, much of the city of Kano has been without electricity in recent days, forcing crews to suspend their work at nighttime. The outage, which began on Friday, was not related to the crash.

One volunteer rescue worker at the scene told VOA that crews believe there are a number of bodies still buried under the debris.

Relatives of victims have been going to the city's hospitals to find and identify remains. Kano state government officials said they planned to place those who could not be identified in a mass grave.

The crash raised new concerns about the use of older aircraft in Nigeria's extensive domestic air network. The government last month announced it was prohibiting airlines from using airplanes that are more than 2 years old.