Many feared dead after passenger plane plunges into Karachi homes
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.”
▲ Search teams amid the wreckage of the airliner that crashed in Karachi