Dubai: A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft has crashed in a residential area near Karachi airport. PIA spokesperson Abdul Sattar confirmed the crash and added that the flight, A-320, was carrying 99 people on board, including cabin crew, and was flying from Lahore to Karachi.
CAA sources said that its communication with the plane one minute before its landing was cut off. PIA spokesperson said that the plane crashed at 2.37pm Pakistan Standard Time, just one minute before the landing. The PIA flight PK-8303 took off from Lahore for Karachi and crashed in a residential area in Karachi, a senior PIA official told Gulf News from Karachi. He said that PIA's emergency and rescue team has been activated.
A statement by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said Army Quick Reaction Force and Sindh Pakistan Rangers reached the site for relief and rescue efforts, alongside civil administration.
Minister of Health & Population Welfare has declared emergency in all major hospitals of Karachi due to the plane crash, according to Meeran Yousuf, the media coordinator to the Sindh health minister.
According to the PIA official, passengers included 51 male, 31 female and nine children. Chairman Punjab Bank Zafar Masood and a senior journalist Ansar Naqvi were also travelling in the same flight. Local media reported that there are some survivors. The exact number of casualities is not known as resuce teams were busy in rescue operation.
The crash occurred just days after domestic flights resumed in Pakistan as coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions were being lifted. The next few days are expected to be a busy travel time in Pakistan, as the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan is set to fall this weekend and is traditionally celebrated by visiting relatives. Police, Ambulance and firefighters have reached the spot which is a crowded area.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed grief over the sad incident and ordered immediate inquiry. "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. Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased," tweeted Imran.
A resident told Gulf News that the aircraft came dangerously before crashing. "It hit a house first and then crashed. We do not yet how many people have been killed on ground," said Shoaib Chaudhry. He said that area has been cordoned off for the resuce operation. Chaudhry further said that the crash site is densley populated with mostly two to three storey houses. "Thick black smoke is billowing from the spot and some area is also on fire. Some houses have also damaged," he added.
Aircraft engine was on fire:
Another eye witness told a television channel that he was on his roof when he saw the PIA plane with one engine on fire. It was flying over Model Coloney which is adajacent to the airport. "I saw the PIA plane with one engine on fire and suddenly there was blast and the aircraft fell on houses in the area. At least six to eight houses are on fire while resuce teams are struggle to make way through narrow streets to resuce people," he said.
Control tower recording:
A recording of conversation between the airport control tower and the pilot just before the crash confirmed engine failure. "I have lost one engine, May Day, May Day," said the pilot. The control tower informed the pilot that both the runways were available for landing." Then the tower lost the contact. The recording was aired on a television channel.
Videos and photos showed bodies buried underneath rubble and streets littered with debris while resuce teams police carried out evacuating the area. A number of houses have been damaged and dozens of victims including the injured and dead bodies have been taken to hospitals.