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Pope laments 'great loss of life' in Nigerian aircrash


Pope Benedict XVI regretted "the great loss of life" after a Nigerian airliner crashed, killing almost all passengers on board, many of them schoolchildren heading home for the Christmas holidays.

CLICK HERECatholic News Service reports that in a telegram, the pope expressed his "heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims" and wished "strength and peace upon all those who mourn and upon all engaged" in rescue and relief operations.

At least 107 of the 110 passengers and crew members died after a passenger jet crashed and burst into flames on Saturday as it was trying to land at the southern oil town of Port Harcourt during an electrical storm.

71 of the 110 people on board were students at Loyola Jesuit College boarding school near the Nigerian capital of Abuja; the students were between ages of 11 and 18.

Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo were to visit the school Dec. 12 to offer their condolences, according to a report by Reuters, the British news agency.

The plane, traveling from Abuja, missed the runway while landing.

Eyewitnesses said they saw lightning strike as the Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 aircraft neared the runway. The plane then crashed and was engulfed by flames, they said.

The Dec. 10 air disaster was the second major deadly plane crash in Nigeria in the past seven weeks.

A Boeing 737 passenger jet crashed in October shortly after takeoff from Lagos, killing all 117 people on board.

SOURCE
Pope laments 'great loss of life' after Nigerian airliner crash (Catholic News Service 12/12/05)

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MORE AIRCRASH STORIES
Telegram for air disaster in Nigeria (Vatican Information Service 12/12/05)
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13 Dec 2005