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Pakistan: Death toll from plane crash rises to 80

Pakistan International Airlines plane with 99 on board crashes in residential area near Karachi airport

Aamir Latif   | 22.05.2020
Pakistan: Death toll from plane crash rises to 80 KARACHI, PAKISTAN, MAY 22: Pakistani people arrive at the site of a passenger plane crash in Karachi, Pakistan, May 22, 2020. A Pakistani passenger plane with at least 100 people on board crashed in a residential area in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Friday, the country's civil aviation agency said. ( H.KHAN - Anadolu Agency )

KARACHI, Pakistan 

At least 80 people, including women and children, were killed as a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane with 99 passengers and crew onboard crashed in the southern port city of Karachi on Friday, officials and local media said.

Earlier, the Civil Aviation Authority, a state-run body that regulates the air travel, put the number of passengers and crew at 107. The PIA, however, said 91 passengers, and eight crew members were on board.

The flight PK-8303, traveling from the northeastern Lahore city, crashed near Jinnah International Airport while landing, the Civil Aviation Authority confirmed in a statement.

Dr. Seemi Jamali, the executive director of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, told Anadolu Agency that 48 dead bodies have been brought to the hospital.

Dr. Khadim Qureshi, the head of Civil Hospital, told reporters that 32 bodies and 20 injured persons had been brought to the health facility. Most of the injured are in critical condition, he added. 

It remains unclear whether the dead and injured people are passengers or residents on the ground.

So far, only 17 of the deceased have been identified as most of the bodies are burned beyond recognition, health officials said. 

Rescuers said dozens of people were still trapped under the rubble.

So far, two people, including the country's top banker Zafar Masood, are confirmed to have survived the crash. The condition of both was stated stable by doctors.

Saeed Ghani, a provincial minister, shared his picture with Mohammad Zubiar, a survivor who is being treated at a local hospital.

"The plane started to shake close to landing. I thought it was just because of landing. But seconds after, there was a huge blast, and I lost my senses" Zubair told Geo TV from hospital by telephone.

"Everything was smooth and normal until the plane tried to make an emergency landing at runway but couldn't make it," he added.

According to Zubair, the pilot made another announcement for landing but all of a sudden, the plane glided and hit the buildings.

"There was fire, smoke, and screams all around when I regained my senses. I unfasten my seatbelt, and got out through a broken part of the plane," he recalled.

Zubair, who miraculously had only minor burn injuries, was picked up by area residents who reached the site first and shifted to the hospital.

The crash occurred days after the resumption of domestic flights following the lifting of a month-long lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Abdullah, the PIA spokesman, told reporters that it would be early to comment on the possible causes of the crash, adding: "The plane was not old, and (was) well-maintained."

But an initial investigation report suggested that multiple birds collided with the plane, Geo News said.

Pakistan: Passenger plane with 107 onboard crashes

KARACHI, PAKISTAN, MAY 22: Pakistani security officials are seen at the site of a passenger plane crash in Karachi, Pakistan, May 22, 2020. A Pakistani passenger plane with at least 100 people on board crashed in a residential area in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Friday, the country's civil aviation agency said. ( H.KHAN - Anadolu Agency )

Mayday call

The last contact between the pilot and the control tower aired on Geo TV suggested that the crash was a result of an engine fault.

"I have lost the engine," pilot Sajjad Gul was heard telling the control tower in a Mayday message.

Gul’s last word was "roger" in response to the control tower's directive that two runways are open for an emergency landing.

Footage aired on local broadcaster Geo News showed clouds of smoke billowing upwards from the burning wreckage of the ill-fated plane. Several vehicles also caught fire.

The plane fell on a residential area damaging several houses and vehicles.

"The plane came down so fast. I could not understand at the first moment what was happening," Rana Jawed, an eyewitness, told reporters.

The plane, he said, had caught fire before it fell down following a "deafening explosion".

Honking ambulances and fire brigade vehicles were seen rushing to the scene, where crowds of area residents already gathered.

Army and police personnel also reached the site to assist the rescue operation as narrow streets hampered the movement of rescue vehicles.

Meanwhile, President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed grief over the loss of lives in the crash.

"Shocked, and saddened by the PIA crash. [I] Am in touch with PIA CEO Arshad Malik, who has left for Karachi, and with the rescue, and relief teams on the ground as this is the priority right now. The immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased," Khan said in a Twitter post.

In December 2016, a PIA plane had crashed on the foothills of the northwestern Chitral city, killing all 48 passengers onboard.


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