Many feared dead after pas­sen­ger plane plunges into Karachi homes

The Guardian - - World - Han­nah El­lis-Petersen Shah Meer Baloch

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 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 health min­istry spokesman.

“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 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.”

A trans­mis­sion of the pi­lot’s fi­nal ex­change with air traf­fic con­trol, posted on the web­site LiveATC.net, in­di­cated he failed to land and was cir­cling around to make an­other at­tempt. “We are pro­ceed­ing di­rect, sir – we have lost en­gine,” a pi­lot can be heard say­ing.

“Con­firm your at­tempt on belly,” the air traf­fic con­troller says, of­fer­ing a run­way the plane can use.

“Sir – may­day, may­day, may­day, may­day Pak­istan 8303 [the plane’s flight num­ber],” the pi­lot says be­fore the trans­mis­sion ends.

Video footage shows bil­low­ing black smoke and peo­ple run­ning scream­ing from the crash site.

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.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: SHAHZAIB AKBER/EPA

▲ Search teams amid the wreck­age of the air­liner that crashed in Karachi

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