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RESCUERS FIND WRECKAGE OF NIGERIAN JET IN SWAMP

SHARE RESCUERS FIND WRECKAGE OF NIGERIAN JET IN SWAMP

Rescue workers searching the swamps outside Lagos found the submerged wreckage of a Nigerian jetliner on Friday, 24 hours after it disappeared on a domestic flight. All 141 people on board were believed dead.

"From the information I have . . . the plane just plunged into the lagoon," Aviation Minister Ita Udoh Umeh told reporters in Lagos.A helicopter search located the Boeing 727 in a swamp at the village of Imota, about 40 miles southeast of Lagos - the intended destination of its flight Thursday.

The News Agency of Nigeria quoted unidentified sources as saying the pilot advised the Lagos airport to prepare for an emergency landing before the plane lost contact with the control tower Thursday evening.

The cause of the crash was not known. Umeh said attempts would be made to lift the wreckage from the muddy water.

The jet, belonging to the domestic airline Aviation Development Corp., was carrying 132 passengers and nine crew members to Lagos from the southern city of Port Harcourt, about an hour away. Port Harcourt is in the heart of Nigeria's oil-producing region, and foreign oil-industry workers frequently travel the route.

At least six Britons were on board the flight Thursday, and the Italian and Israeli embassies said at least one of each of their nationals was also aboard. It was not known whether they were with the oil industry.

Reporters reached the crash site before the search and rescue team, which arrived accompanied by British officials.

Villagers in Ebute-Egun, near the crash site, said they saw a huge ball of flame in the sky at about the time the plane lost contact with Lagos airport.

The crash was bound to deepen concern about the safety standards of aviation in Nigeria, where officials say most planes are more than 25 years old.

Few of the country's 15 private airlines have more than two functioning aircraft, a problem airline operators blame on the government's failure to raise state-controlled air fares since 1994.

As a result, the Airline Operators of Nigeria, representing private commercial airlines, says it can't keep up with maintenance and fuel costs. In May, it demanded a fare increase of more than 250 percent. The government has not responded.