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117 killed in Nigeria plane crash

First images from the site showed debris strewn over a wide area.


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LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- All 117 people aboard a passenger jet that crashed shortly after take-off from Lagos are dead, including several high-level Nigerian officials, the government said Sunday.

The identities of the officials were not released, pending notification of relatives.

"The Federal Government announces with regret the unfortunate air crash of Bellview Airlines ... which resulted in the loss of life of all passengers and crew on board," a government statement released late on Sunday said, according to Reuters news service.

Dismembered and burned body parts, fuselage fragments and engine parts were strewn over an area the size of a football field near the village of Lissa, about 30 km (20 miles) north of Lagos.

"The aircraft has crashed and it is a total loss. We can't even see a whole human body," Reuters reports a senior police official at the scene as saying.

Video from the crash site showed smoldering wreckage scattered over a rocky hillside.

A Red Cross official at the site said there was a 70 foot (20 meter) crater where the main impact occurred, Reuters said.

There were 111 passengers and six crew members on board, according to Bellview Airlines.

The plane was headed to the Nigerian capital of Abuja when it crashed, officials said. The cause of the crash was being investigated.

The pilot of Bellview Airlines Flight 210 pilot issued a distress call just before the control tower lost sight of the plane, about three minutes after takeoff, officials said.

The plane was missing for hours before the wreckage was found shortly after dawn.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria scrambled two helicopters to search for the jet.

Relatives of those on board also chartered a helicopter, and search teams were dispatched.

The twin-engine Boeing 737 left Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT) Saturday as Flight 210 en route to Abuja -- a trip that should have taken about 50 minutes.

Several high-level Nigerian officials were believed to be on board the privately owned jet, the office of President Olusegun Obasanjo told CNN. They were headed to Abuja for a meeting.

Reuters said the plane was believed to be carrying a U.S. consular official and some European passengers as well.

Bellview is a Nigerian airline popular with expatriates living in the West African nation and has been operating for about 10 years with no record of any incidents.

A storm was passing through Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, about the time the flight left, CNN's Africa Correspondent Jeff Koinange reported.

There were widespread rains and thunderstorms around the southwestern corner of Nigeria, particularly near Lagos to Ibadan, CNN's meteorologist Mari Ramos said.

The normally bustling airport in Lagos was quiet Sunday with family members of passengers waiting for news of rescue efforts.

President Obasanjo called on the country's people to pray for the passengers and their families, officials said. Obasanjo's office said in a statement that the president was personally overseeing search and rescue operations.

Meanwhile, Obasanjo's wife, Stella Obasanjo, died Sunday at a hospital in Spain, officials said. She had traveled to Spain to undergo surgery and died from complications resulting from that surgery. (Full story)

CNN Africa Correspondent Jeff Koinange contributed to this report.

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