Many feared dead in Karachi plane crash

Many feared dead in Karachi plane crash

Pakistan International Airlines jet carrying about 100 people hits residential area

Rescue workers survey the wreckage of a passenger plane strewn along a residential street not far from the airport in Karachi, Pakistan on Friday. (Reuters Photo)
Rescue workers survey the wreckage of a passenger plane strewn along a residential street not far from the airport in Karachi, Pakistan on Friday. (Reuters Photo)

KARACHI: A Pakistani plane with nearly 100 people on board crashed into a residential area in the southern city of Karachi on Friday, killing several people on the ground.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) jet was close to landing when it came down among houses, sparking an explosion and sending plumes of smoke into the air that could be seen from some distance away.

Many more people are feared dead but at least one passenger survived the crash. He was identified as Zafar Masud, president of the Bank of Punjab, according to Abdur Rashid Channa, a spokesman for the Sindh provincial government.

Flight PK-8303, travelling from Lahore, crashed at 2.33pm, according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which said there had been 91 passengers and eight crew on board.

The pilot of the Airbus A320 sent a Mayday and told controllers the aircraft had lost power from both its engines on its second attempt to land, according to a recording posted on the monitoring website

After the aircraft reportedly called off an earlier attempt to land and went around for a second attempt, a controller radioed the pilot of Flight 8303 that he appeared to be turning left, suggesting he was off-course.

The pilot replied, “We are returning back, sir, we have lost engines.” The controller then cleared the plane to land on either of Karachi airport’s two west-southwest-facing runways.

Twelve seconds later the pilot called “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” and was again cleared to use either runway. There was no further communication from the aircraft, according to the audio.

Seemin Jamali, a director of the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical College, said eight dead and 15 injured people had been brought to the facility.

“They were all from the ground, no (plane) passengers have been brought here,” she said.

Rescuers’ efforts were being impeded because the crash site is located in a congested neighbourhood and large vehicles were facing difficulty gaining access.

TV footage showed extensive damage to several houses in the Jinnah Garden neighbourhood, with debris strewn about, vehicles on fire and clouds of black smoke rising. There were reports of injuries among people in the neighborhood.

Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that he was shocked and saddened by the crash and said an immediate inquiry would be held.

Residents near the scene said their walls shook before a big explosion erupted as the plane slammed into their neighbourhood.

“I was coming from the mosque when I saw the plane tilting on one side. The engines’ sounds were quite weird. It was so low that the walls of my house were trembling,” said a 14-year-old witness who gave his name as Hassan.

The disaster comes as Pakistanis across the country were 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 nationwide.

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 PIA plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while flying from the remote north to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.

Like other carriers worldwide, PIA struggled with plane groundings in the wake of the pandemic. The company, which hasn’t made a profit since 2004, asked the government for financial support in March.

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