Soliu Hamzat

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Tuesday in Abuja confirmed that last year's Sosoliso air crash exposed the country's weak airport emergency and rescue response.

The Sosoliso aircraft on a flight from Abuja last year crashed at the Port Harcourt Airport leaving 106 of the 110 passengers on board dead as fire fighters arrived the scene 30 minutes later.

In his welcome address at the work shop on airport emergency planning, the Director General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren disclosed that the fire fighting and rescue efforts, emergency medical attention, casualties distribution, communication and overall coordination of response to the emergency were far below expectation.

He noted that similar accidents in other countries of the world had witnessed appreciable level of success in rescue operation. He said "in the Air France Airbus A330 accident in Canada ,all the over 300 passengers were safely evacuated and rescued within 90 seconds before the aircraft burnt down completely.

The new Airbus A380 with over 800 passengers has demonstrated evacuation in 90 seconds of all passengers with only half of its exit doors usable."

This revelation is coming at a time NCAA is preparing for the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit on Nigeria scheduled to take place next month.

A representative of ICAO said the need for airport to be provided with emergency plan is a fundamental requirement and condition for the certification of aerodromes.

The minister of Aviation Professor Babalola Borishade, who gave the keynote address at the workshop said accidents and incidents last year have not only offered useful lessons to the country but has also strengthened the resolve of government to reposition the aviation industry through far reaching reforms.

"The reforms were among others aimed at promoting a high level of safety," he said.

Professor Borishade reckoned that in line with the objective of the reform, the ministry of aviation organized a two -day national workshop which recorded industry wide participation and representation from international aviation concerns including ICAO.

Meanwhile, the chairman, Senate committee on aviation, Senator Mohammed K. Ibrahim says the National Assembly is ever ready to give all the support needed by the ministry to ensure safety.

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