BFF-44, 45 Pakistan passenger plane with 98 on board crashes on homes

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Pakistan passenger plane with 98 on board crashes on homes

KARACHI, May 22, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – A Pakistani plane with nearly 100
people on board crashed into a residential area in the southern city
of Karachi on Friday, with a government minister reporting two
survivors pulled from the wreckage.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane was close to landing
when it came down among houses, sparking an explosion and killing
several people on the ground.

Plumes of smoke were sent into the air as rescue workers and
residents searched the debris for survivors and firefighters tried to
extinguish the flames. An AFP reporter witnessed charred bodies being
loaded into ambulances.

At least two passengers had survived the crash, according to Syed
Nasir Hussain Shah, the information minister in Sindh province where
Karachi is located.

Sarfraz Ahmed — a firefighter at the crash site — told AFP the nose
of the Airbus A320 and the fuselage had been heavily damaged by the
impact, adding that rescuers had pulled four bodies from the wrecked
aircraft, including some who were still wearing seatbelts.

Seemin Jamali, a director from Jinnah Post Graduate Medical College
in the city, said eight dead and 15 injured people had been brought to
the facility.

“They were all from the ground, no (plane) passengers have been
brought here,” she said.

Residents near the scene said their walls shook before a big
explosion erupted as the aircraft slammed into their neighbourhood.

“I was coming from the mosque when I saw the plane tilting on one
side. The engines’ sounds were quite weird. It was so low that the
walls of my house were trembling,” said 14-year-old witness Hassan.

Karachi resident Mudassar Ali said he “heard a big bang and woke up
to people calling for the fire brigade”.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said there were 91 passengers and seven
crew on board the flight, which lost contact with air traffic control
just after 2.30pm (0930 GMT).

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An aviation authority spokesperson said the number of crew on board was eight.

The plane had developed a technical fault, interior minister Ijaz
Ahmad Shah said, adding that the pilot issued a mayday call after the
craft lost an engine.

The disaster comes as Pakistanis across the country are preparing
to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, with
many travelling back to their homes in cities and villages.

Abdul Sattar Khokhar, a spokesman for the country’s aviation
authority, said the Airbus A320 was travelling from Lahore to Karachi.

– ‘Prayers & condolences’ –

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “shocked and
saddened” by the crash, tweeting that he was in touch with the state
airline’s chief executive.

“Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased,” he wrote on Twitter.

Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the plane crashed into a
residential area minutes before it was due to land.

The Pakistan military said security forces had been deployed to the
neighbourhood and helicopters were being used to survey the damage and
help ongoing rescue operations, while offering condolences over the
“loss of precious lives” in the incident.

Commercial flights resumed only days ago, after planes were
grounded during a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.
Pakistan has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety
record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.

In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames
after one of its two turboprop engines failed while flying from the
remote north to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.

The deadliest air disaster on Pakistani soil was in 2010, when an
Airbus A321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from
Karachi crashed into the hills outside Islamabad as it came into land,
killing all 152 people on board.

An official report blamed the accident on a confused captain and a
hostile cockpit atmosphere.

PIA, one of the world’s leading airlines until the 1970s, now
suffers from a sinking reputation due to frequent cancellations,
delays and financial troubles. It has been involved in numerous
controversies over the years, including the jailing of a drunk pilot
in Britain in 2013.

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