45 dead as Pakistan plane crashes in residential area in Karachi

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KARACHI, May 22 (PTI): At least 45 people were killed when a Pakistan International Airlines plane with 99 people on board crashed into a densely populated residential area near the Jinnah International Airport here on Friday, officials said, days after the COVID-19-induced travel restrictions were lifted.

Flight PK-8303 from Lahore was about to land in Karachi when it crashed at the Jinnah Garden area near Model Colony in Malir, just a minute before its landing, they said.

The PIA Airbus A320 carrying 91 passengers and eight crew members has crashed landed into the Jinnah housing society located near the airport, a spokesperson of the national carrier said.

Earlier, a PIA spokesperson and many media reports said that there were 107 people on board the aircraft.

Faisal Edhi of the Edhi welfare trust told reporters that so far 45 bodies have been recovered.

“Our rescue workers have taken out 45 bodies from the remains of the aircraft,” he said.

Sindh Health Minister Azra Pechuho said that 19 bodies have been shifted from the crash site to Jinnah hospital and another 20 to Civil hospital. Scores of injured were also rushed to hospitals.

The minister said there are three survivors including President of the Bank of Punjab Zafar Masood. He called up his mother to inform her of his well-being.

Edhi said that around 25 to 30 residents whose houses were damaged by the plane have also been taken to the hospital, mostly with burn wounds.

The aircraft wings during the crash landing hit the houses in the residential colony before crashing down.

“At least 25 houses have been damaged in this incident,” Edhi said.

“The first priority is to rescue the people. The main hurdle is narrow streets and presence of ordinary people who gathered at the place after the crash but they have been dispersed,” the minister said.

According to a PIA official, the captain informed the air traffic control that he was having problems with the landing gear before the aircraft disappeared from the radar.

President Arif Alvi expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in the plane crash incident.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while expressing deep sorrow over the loss of precious lives as a result of the PIA passenger plane crash in Karachi, has ordered an immediate inquiry into the incident.

Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa condoled the loss of lives and directed the military to provide full assistance to the civil administration in rescue and relief efforts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the plane crash and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.

The flight was coming from Lahore to Karachi after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) allowed limited resumption of domestic flights last Saturday following weeks of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Television channels showed several houses and cars damaged in the society where the aircraft crashed.

The plane lost contact with the air traffic control at 2.37 PM (local time), PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said, adding that it was too early to say about the technical problems faced by the plane.

He said that the passengers included, 31 women and nine children. It was not immediately known how many people were injured on the ground. Media reports showed that up to 10 houses and some vehicles were damaged.

Edhi said that people heard human voices coming from the aircraft’s tail, raising hopes of finding more survivors.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar said that the landing gear of the plane was not working.

PIA Chairman Arshad Malik said that the pilot told the control tower about having a technical problem. The pilot was informed that two airports were available for landing he decided to go for a round and crashed.

The Pakistan Army and the Air Force have sent their teams for carrying out rescue and relief operations, the CAA said.

The PIA aircraft was flown by Captain Sajjad Gul.

A resident of the colony who witnessed the crash told Ary News channel that the aircraft had fire coming from its wings which crashed into rooftops of some houses before it crash landed.

This is the first major aircraft crash in Pakistan after December 7, 2016 when a PIA ATR-42 aircraft from Chitral to Islamabad crashed midway. The crash claimed the lives of all 48 passengers and crew, including singer-cum-evangelist Junaid Jamshed.

Footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the site of the crash. Ambulances and rescue officials arrived at the scene to help residents. A statement by the Pakistan Army’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that Army Quick Reaction Force and Sindh Pakistan Rangers reached the spot for carrying out rescue and relief operations alongside civil administration.

Pakistan Army Aviation helicopters have also flown for damage assessment and rescue efforts.

Minister of Health and Population Welfare has declared emergency in all major hospitals of Karachi after the incident.

The incident occurred on a day when Pakistan’s interior ministry announced Eid holidays from May 22 to May 27. The coronavirus cases in the country have crossed the 50,000-mark after a record 2,603 more patients were diagnosed. The death toll stands at 1,067.

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