Pakistan International Airlines plane arriving from Lahore comes down in residential area
At least 66 people are confirmed to have died after a Pakistani passenger aircraft crashed into a residential area near Karachi’s airport.
The pilot of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Airbus A320 jet travelling from Lahore called in to air traffic control describing a technical fault minutes before the crash, which happened at 2.45pm local time.
At least two of the 98 people onboard the plane survived: the president of the Bank of Punjab, Zafar Masud, who was “out of danger” in hospital, and a man identified as Mohammed Zubair.
“So far we have a total of 66 dead bodies, but we were only able to identify three of them because the rest were extremely burned,” said Meeran Yousuf, a media coordinator for the Sindh state health minister.
“The plane crash was in a residential area so it is proving difficult to get the bodies out and there were also residents who were injured as well. We’ve had seven residents from the area brought into the hospital, of which six are in severe condition in the burns unit. The rescue operation is still continuing, with a focus on finding more bodies.”
Another senior official on the ground, who asked not to be named as he did not have permission to speak to the media, said: “The flight was just seconds from the runway when it fell. It crashed into a street in a densely populated area, completely demolishing five houses and damaging 15 others.”
He said a search operation would continue until midnight. “It was difficult in the beginning because the bodies were dispersed and we could not find them. But now we have found most of the bodies.”
A transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, indicated that an attempt to land had failed and he was circling around for another attempt.
“We are proceeding direct, sir – we have lost engine,” a pilot can be heard saying in the recording.
“Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller says, offering a runway.
“Sir – mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” the pilot says before the transmission ends.
The PIA chief executive, Arshad Malik, said he would visit the crash site and investigate the technical issue reported by the pilot.
Video footage from the scene showed billowing black smoke and people running away screaming.
A schoolteacher working nearby said she heard a “huge crash – it felt like doomsday. I saw smoke rising from the next street.”
Asad Ishaq, who lives a few streets away from where the plane crashed, told the Guardian there was panic in the area.
“The entire area has been sealed off by the army as they have stepped in for the rescue mission,” said Ishaq. “They are not allowing anyone to go near the site and there is complete panic here.”
The Sindh governor, Imran Ismail, said: “The concern now is of casualties of people in the area. Rangers and rescue services have been sent. We are trying to save as many lives as possible.”
The prime minister, Imran Khan, tweeted: “Shocked and saddened by the PIA crash. Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers and condolences go to families of the deceased.”
Domestic commercial flights resumed last weekend following a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
On Friday many people were travelling to their families in cities and villages across the country to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.