Pakistani passenger jet crashes near Karachi airport | News | DW | 23.05.2020
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Pakistani passenger jet crashes near Karachi airport

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane traveling from Lahore to Karachi has crashed close to Karachi airport. All but two of the 99 people on board were killed, according to the Health Ministry.

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Airbus A320 carrying 91 passengers and eight crew crashed into a residential area near the southern Pakistani city of Karachi on Friday.

Ninety-seven people were killed and two survived when flight PK8303 from Lahore came down close to the international airport, the news agency AFP reported, citing the Sindh Health Ministry. Nineteen victims have so far been identified.

One of the survivors was Zafar Masood, the head of the Bank of Punjab. The bank said he had suffered fractures but was "conscious and responding well."

The bodies of the victims were recovered from the crash site, the ministry said.

According to some reports, the plane crash destroyed buildings and also killed several people on the ground.

Despite a local hospital reporting earlier that it had received the bodies of people killed on the ground, no official figure has been given.

Disastrous end to 90-minute flight

The plane had been due to land at Jinnah international airport after a journey that normally takes about 90 minutes.

PIA said air traffic control lost contact with the plane just after 2:30 p.m. (0930 UTC).

The airline has promised a full, independent investigation into the crash.

Pakistan's military tweeted that army helicopters had been deployed to assess the damage and to take part in the rescue effort.

"This is terrible news and a rescue operation is underway. We can share nothing the casualties yet," Abdul Sattar Khokhar, the spokesman for the country's aviation authority told DW. "My thoughts and prayers are with the families."

Police officials said that "many bodies are under debris and it will take time to clear the area." Local health authorities told DW that hospitals in Karachi had been put on standby to deal with the patients.

Graphic footage from crash site

Social media posts by journalists showed footage showing plumes of smoke and flames rising from the site of the crash.

Another tweet appeared to show parts of the plane's fuselage lying in the middle of a street.

Initial reports suggest properties in the area were also damaged.

Witnesses said the plane appeared to attempt to land two or three times before crashing near the airport.

"I was in mosque when I saw the plane," one witness told DW. "Its wheels were open and the tail was on fire. The engine was sounding then it struck three houses and crashed. There was a huge blast a few seconds after the crash."

Khan tweets condolences

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that he was "shocked and saddened" by the crash. He added that he was in touch with PIA's CEO and with rescue and relief teams on the ground.

"Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased," Khan added.

The crash comes just days after the country began allowing commercial flights to resume 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 PIA jet 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 crash comes as Pakistanis across the country are preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, with many traveling back to their homes in cities and villages.

ed/mm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Additional reporting by Haroon Janjua, DW's correspondent in Islamabad.

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