Monday, October 24, 2005

Tragedy in Nigeria

Was woken up on Sunday morning by a text message from a close relative saying there had been an aircrash in Nigeria on Saturday night and that he just wanted to let me know that he had spoken to my parents and they were fine. Leapt out of bed and switched on the television, BBC News 24 confirmed that a Bellview plane was missing after take off last night from Lagos en route Abuja but it was unclear what had happened to it. Since air travel in Nigeria is used by relatively few, I and most Nigerians whom I spoke to in the UK were very jittery as the chances of knowing someone on board was fairly high

By the time I'd taken a shower and headed for church I had a text message from a friend asking if I'd heard about the plane crash and also about the death of Stella Obasanjo,wife of the Nigerian president following cosmetic surgery in Spain. While I was sure that the news of the crash was probably true, I was more dubious about the second, convinced that it was a hoax, being perpetrated by "detractors". Sadly it was later to turn out that both stories were true.

The rollercoaster wasn't helped by the news from a government spokesman at about twelve that the crash site had been found, that over half the passengers had survived,and that all medical personnel should in the vicinity should head to the area.A few hours later, this statement was retracted, after AIT, a Nigerian broadcaster showed pictures of the site (apparently with graphic images of the crash site) which promptly made clear that there were no survivors. They were subsequently promptly closed down by the broadcasting regulator, although whether it was for the graphic images they had displayed or for having shown up the officials who had originally misled the public it was not clear.

There are so many questions and issues that the events of the last 24 hours throw up but this is not the time for them. I will surely return to them though.

For now my thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the bereaved, and also the management and staff of Bellview Airlines,certainly one of the most (if not the most professional) local airline in Nigeria.

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