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Pakistan flight crashes with 98 on board

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

A jetliner carrying 98 people has crashed in a crowded neighbourhood near the airport in Karachi after an apparent engine failure during landing.

A jetliner carrying 98 people crashed yesterday in a crowded neighbourhood near the airport in Pakistan's port city of Karachi after an apparent engine failure during landing.

Officials said there were two survivors from the plane but also found at least 57 bodies in the wreckage.

It was unknown how many people on the ground were hurt as the Pakistan International Airlines jet, an Airbus A320, plowed into an alley and destroyed at least five houses.

The pilot of the Pakistani International Airlines Flight 8303 was heard transmitting a mayday to the tower shortly before the crash of the Airbus A320, which was flying from Lahore to Karachi.

Video on social media appeared to show the jet flying low with flames shooting from one of its engines.

The plane went down about 2.39pm northeast of Jinnah International Airport in the poor and congested residential area known as Model Colony between houses that were smashed by its wings. Police in protective masks struggled to clear away crowds amid the smoke and dust so ambulances and firetrucks could reach the crash site.

As darkness fell, crews worked under floodlights, and a portable morgue was set up. The Sindh provincial health department said it had recovered 57 bodies, while PIA chairman Arshad Malik said finding all the dead could take two to three days.

Pakistan had resumed domestic flights earlier this week ahead of the Eid-al Fitr holiday marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

Pakistan has been in a countrywide lockdown since mid-March because of the coronavirus.

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The city's mayor, Wasim Akhtar, initially said all aboard died, but two civil aviation officials later said that at least two people survived the crash. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief media.

Local TV stations reported three people sitting in the front row of the aircraft survived and said footage of a man on a stretcher had been identified as Zafar Masood, the head of the Bank of Punjab. They reported that at least 11 bodies were recovered from the crash site and six people were injured. It was not immediately clear if the casualties were passengers.

Pakistan's civil aviation authority said the plane carried 91 passengers and a crew of seven. Earlier, the airport in the northeastern city of Lahore had said 107 were on board. Civil aviation authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Kokhar said the discrepancy was due to confusion in the chaotic aftermath of the crash.

A transmission of the pilot's final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website, indicated he had failed to land and was circling around to make another attempt.

"We are proceeding direct, sir — we have lost engine," a pilot said.

"Confirm your attempt on belly," the air traffic controller said, offering a runway.

"Sir - mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303," the pilot said before the transmission ended.

Witnesses said the Airbus appeared to try to land two or three times.

A resident of the area, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the aircraft circle at least three times, appearing to try to land before it crashed into several houses.

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Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: "Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash... Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased."

Airbus did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the crash. The flight from the northeastern city of Lahore typically lasts about an hour and a half.

Pakistan Airlines spokesman Abdullah Khan told CNN.

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

"He had been told both landing strips were available for his use but he preferred to use the go around landing route, we are looking into the technical issue.

"Our prayers for the lives that have been lost.

"It is a very tragic incident."

The flight typically takes an hour and a half to travel from the northeastern city of Lahore, the capital of Pakistan's most populous Punjab province, to the southern port city of Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan and the seventh largest in the world.

Airworthiness documents showed the plane last received a government check on November 1, 2019.

PIA's chief engineer signed a separate certificate April 28 saying all maintenance had been conducted on the plane and that "the aircraft is fully airworthy and meets all the safety" standards.

Passenger plane crashes in Pakistan

What is Pakistan International Airlines' safety record?

Since its establishment in 1946, Pakistan International Airlines has lost more than 30 aircraft as a result of flight crashes or other events, and another 20 incidents have been fatal in the past.

There have been four other accidents involving PIA planes over the last decade, with the most recent incident involving Flight 661 in December 2016 where a crashed in the city of Havelian killed 47 people on board.

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Ten years before that, Flight 688 from Multan to Lahore crashed into a field and burst into flames minutes after takeoff, killing all 41 passengers and four crew members on the plane.

With the Associated Press & CNN.

Source: 9News

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