Scores killed as Boeing jetliner crashes in Benin.
 130 bodies and 21 survivors accounted for (out of 161 on board)
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Benin Television shows the tail section of the crashed Boeing 727 resting in the Atlantic Ocean near the port city of Cotonou.

COTONOU, Benin (Reuters) - A Boeing 727 passenger plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean just after takeoff in the West African country of Benin on Thursday, killing dozens of passengers, witnesses and airport officials said.

Witnesses said they saw at least 30 bodies strewn on the beach near the airport in the main city Cotonou, where the Beirut-bound plane crashed in the Gulf of Guinea.

Fishermen and volunteers scrambled to drag bodies out of the water as they were washed ashore by waves, prompting screams of horror from onlookers on the beach.

It was not immediately known how many people were aboard the plane nor which airline was involved. Airport officials said the plane could carry about 140 people.

Sixty-three passengers boarded in Cotonou.

Witnesses said most of the dead appeared to be Lebanese. There is a large Lebanese community in West Africa.

Airport officials said the flight originated in Conakry, capital of the West African nation Guinea, and was traveling to Beirut via Dubai.

Airport officials said the plane had problems retracting its landing gear after takeoff, smashed into a building at the end of the runway, exploded and then crashed into the sea.

Rescue workers were searching the sea after the crash, which took place around 1415 GMT.

In December 1995 about 60 people were killed when a Cameroon airliner on a flight from Cotonou crashed into a swamp in Cameroon. Africa is particularly prone to air disasters because of poor maintenance of cash-strapped airlines.


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