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Pakistani airliner with about 100 people on board crashes in Karachi residential area
Published on: Friday, May 22, 2020
By: Reuters, AFP
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Rescue workers and local residents pulled people from the debris, as firefighters tried to put out the flames. (Photo: AFP)
Karachi: A Pakistan International Airlines aircraft with about 100 people on board crashed on Friday (May 22) in a residential area of the southern city of Karachi, with many feared dead, officials said.

The PIA plane was close to landing when it came down among houses, sending plumes of smoke into the air that could be seen from some distance away.

Rescue workers and local residents pulled people from the debris, as firefighters tried to put out the flames.

"I heard a big bang and woke up to people calling for the fire brigade," said Karachi resident Mudassar Ali told AFP.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan said there were 91 passengers and seven crew on board the flight, which lost contact with air traffic control just after 2.30pm (5.30pm, Malaysia time).

"The last we heard from the pilot was that he has some technical problem," he said in a video statement.

"He was told from the final approach that both the runways were ready where he can land, but the pilot decided that he wanted to do (a) go-round ... It is a very tragic incident."

A senior civil aviation official told Reuters it appeared the plane was unable to open its wheels due to a technical fault prior to landing, but it was too early to determine the cause.

The jet, which tracking website FlightRadar24.com identified as a 15-year-old Airbus A320, was flying from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi in the south just as Pakistan was resuming domestic flights in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The pilot was told that he could land at the Karachi airports, he was told that both the runways were ready, but he took a circle and gave a MayDay call before the crash," another civil aviation official, Abdul Sattar Khohar, told Reuters.

"We don't know yet whether he gave any reason at the time of the MayDay call."

The Pakistan military later tweeted that security forces had been deployed to the area and helicopters were being used to survey the damage and help ongoing rescue operations.

Local TV station Geo showed crowds near the scene which appeared to be a densely populated area and ambulances trying to make their way through.

Black smoke billowed and several cars were on fire.

PM promises inquiry

Pakistan's army and rescue services rushed to the site, which appeared to be a densely populated area.

Seemin Jamali, a doctor at nearby Jinnah Hospital, confirmed to Reuters there were at least five corpses from the crash.

"The aeroplane first hit a mobile tower and crashed over houses," witness Shakeel Ahmed said near the site, just a few kilometres short of the airport.

"Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash. Am in touch with PIA CEO Arshad Malik, who has left for Karachi & with the rescue & relief teams on ground as this is the priority right now," tweeted Prime Minister Imran Khan.

"Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased."

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

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.

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 northern 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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