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Plane crashes on coast of Benin

Benin TV showed plane wreckage on the coast.
Benin TV showed plane wreckage on the coast.

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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- A Beirut-bound charter jet crashed Thursday on takeoff from a coastal airport in the tiny West African country of Benin, killing at least 36 people, a Lebanese security official said.

Benin's Health Minister Celine Segnon said 22 people were known to have survived the crash, according to Reuters news agency.

The Lebanese security official quoted Benin authorities as saying it appeared the Boeing jet was overloaded and hit a building during takeoff, causing it to crash.

It was not immediately known how many people were on the plane, but sources in Benin told CNN they believed as many as 140 passengers plus the crew were aboard.

Benin TV showed video of wreckage on a beach and reported that the plane crashed during takeoff from the international airport at Cotonou, which hugs the Atlantic Ocean. Benin lies adjacent to most of Nigeria's western border.

The security official said the Boeing 727 was a chartered plane belonging to a company called UTA. There is a significant Lebanese presence throughout West Africa and most of the aircraft's passengers apparently were Lebanese nationals returning to their country for Christmas.

CNN's Rula Amin in Beirut contributed to this report.


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