Dozens dead as PIA plane crashes into houses near airport (updated)

ISLAMABAD, 22 May 2020;

A Pakistan International Airlines passenger flight with over 100 people on board crashed on today as it was about to land near a residential area close to the airport in the port city of Karachi, a civil aviation official said.

There was no immediate word about any survivors from the crash, which took place near Karachi’s Model Colony area.

The Airbus A320 took off from the eastern city of Lahore and was about to land at Karachi’s Jinnah international airport when it crashed and burst into flames around 2.30PM.

“The plane crashed close to the Karachi airport. It was just one minute away from the airport and fell on a residential area,” said Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Abdul Sattar. “An emergency response protocol has been activated.”

The Civil Aviation Ministry said the flight was carrying 99 passengers and eight crew members.

At least two passengers have miraculously survived the crash.

The exact number of casualties was difficult to ascertain as the state-run airline plane went down into the crowded neighbourhood of Model Colony area in Pakistan’s biggest city and the main financial hub.

“We have 60 bodies recovered so far,” said Meeran Yusuf, a spokesperson for the health department of the Sindh province. She said the rescuers brought the dead bodies to two Karachi hospitals.

However, it was not yet possible to distinguish the victims from the plane from possible fatalities on the ground.

“There are two survivors (from the plane),” the spokesperson said. A third person earlier reported as a surviving passenger, turned out to be a woman resident of the neighbourhood, noted Yusuf.

Officials confirmed that one of the survivors from the plane was Bank of Punjab president Zafar Masud.

The rescuers found at least nine more injured who are residents of the area near the crash site, and four of them were reported to have suffered 60 percent burn injuries.

The number of dead could run into dozens as reports indicate that the plane touched and skidded off several rooftops of the houses in the residential area before it crashed around 2.30pm.

Online videos and pictures purportedly from the crash site showed plumes of smoke rising from what looked like a cluster of residential houses amid shrieks and sobs of wailing men and women.

The Karachi administration put the city’s main hospitals on alert for emergency medical aid to survivors.

Ambulances and rescue officials arrived at the site to help residents while the Pakistan Army flew in its helicopters for rescue efforts.

The army’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said in a tweet that its Quick Reaction Force and Sindh Pakistan Rangers had arrived at the site for relief and rescue efforts alongside civil administration.

Air vice marshal Arshad Malik, the chief executive officer of the PIA, said the pilot of the plane had informed the control tower that there were some technical difficulties in landing the plane.

“The last voice we heard of the captain was (that) ‘we have a technical problem.’ He said this from the final approach, he was told (by the air traffic controller) that we are ready for landing, both strips are free and you can land but (the pilot) decided to go-round.”

According to a recording posted on the aviation monitoring website, one of the pilots of the crashed plane had sent a distress call to the controllers that the aircraft engines had lost power as he attempted to land for the second time.

“We are returning, sir, we have lost engines,” says the pilot. “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday,” he made the distress call before the communication snapped.

Pakistan experienced one of its worst air tragedies in 2012 when 138 people died in a plane crash near Islamabad.

A PIA flight carrying 48 passengers and crew had crashed on the way to Islamabad from Chitral in the north on Dec. 7, 2016, with no survivors.