Foreign diplomats seek bodies of Nigeria plane crash victims

"It was not an official meeting. We went to find out about our citizens who died in the crash," the consular head of the High Commission of India in Lagos, who was among the diplomats, Rani Malik told PTI. 

She said the body of the 26-year-old Indian engineer from Kerala named Rijo K Eldhose is yet to be found. Malik had clarified earlier that co-pilot of the plane, Mahendra Singh Rathore is an American of Indian origin.

The diplomats were led by Consul General of China Liu Xianta. Also present at the meeting were the Consul General of France Francois Sastowrne, Consul General of Lebanon Dina Haddad, Consul General of the United States Karl Cockburn and an Indonesian Embassy officer Pontab Tobins.

"We would like the bodies of our nationals, who have been identified after the necessary tests have been carried out among those in the mortuary, to be released to us for burial rites in earnest," Xianta said.

Governor Babatunde Fashola promised to assist in the area he could, but said recoveries of bodies of victims "is still going on at the site of the crash and until the regulatory agencies in charge of that decides that rescue operations have ended".

"We will also like to ask the missions what the government could do to assist them at this difficult period," he said.

A source told PTI that strict identification process which includes DNA test was adopted by state officials while foreigners were told to produce the immigration papers of their dead citizens.

The bodies will also be embalmed. The morgue where the bodies were kept was besieged by distraught relatives of those whose names appeared on the manifest of the plane with several of them crying openly as they sought to see the corpses.

They were told to come back on Friday by which time it is expected that rescue operations must have ended and identification processes concluded.

The passenger plane which belongs to a company owned by Indians, Dana Air was on its way from Abuja to Lagos when it crashed. Heavy downpour hampered rescue operation at the crash site yesterday morning but emergency workers were able to find more bodies bringing the number to 153.

The airline was suspended from operation by the government of the oil rich African country yesterday pending the outcome of investigation into the cause of the accident.

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