Pakistan plane crashes with 99 on board

A Pakistan International Airlines jet with 99 people on board has crashed into a crowded residential district in the city of Karachi while approaching the airport.

At least 56 people are confirmed to have died, hospital officials say, though other officials gave different figures and authorities did not release an estimate of casualties on the ground.

Two passengers survived, including Bank of Punjab president Zafar Masood, a Sindh provincial government spokesman said.

The bank said he had suffered fractures but was “conscious and responding well”.

Smoke billowed from the scene where flight PK 8303 came down at about 2.45pm local time on Friday.

Twisted fuselage lay in the rubble of multi-storey buildings as ambulances rushed through chaotic crowds.

The crash happened on the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid, when Pakistanis travel to visit relatives.

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

The Airbus A320 was flying from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi in the south with 91 passengers and eight crew, civil aviation authorities said.

Pakistan has only just resumed domestic flights in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 56 dead bodies were brought to JPMC hospital and the Civil Hospital Karachi, officials from both institutions said.

The airline’s chief executive Arshad Malik told reporters he knew of 41 confirmed deaths.

The plane was on its second attempt to land after cancelling a previous one in a routine manoeuvre known as a go-around, one person familiar with the investigation said.

The pilot told air traffic controllers he had lost power from both engines, according to a recording posted on liveatc.net, a widely respected aviation monitoring website.

“We are returning back, sir, we have lost engines,” a man was heard saying in a recording released by the website.

The controller freed up both the airport’s runways but moments later the man called “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”.

There was no further communication from the plane, according to the tape, which could not immediately be authenticated.

“The last we heard from the pilot was that he has some technical problem … It is a very tragic incident,” the state carrier’s spokesman Abdullah H Khan said.

Another senior civil aviation official told Reuters it appeared the plane had been unable to lower its undercarriage for the first approach due to a technical fault, but it was too early to determine the cause.

Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that he was “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,” he posted.

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

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also offered condolences.

Pakistan’s worst plane disaster was in 2010, when an AirBlue flight crashed near Islamabad, killing 152 people.

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