40 bodies recovered, dozens more feared dead in Pakistan plane crash

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KARACHI, May 22, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – At least 40 dead bodies have been
recovered after a Pakistani plane crashed with nearly 100 people on
board in the southern city of Karachi on Friday, according to rescue
officials, with dozens more feared dead.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane was close to landing
when it came down among houses, sparking an explosion and killing
several people on the ground.

“We have recovered 40 plus bodies so far,” Major Mohammad Mansoor
from the Pakistan Rangers, who was overseeing the rescue operation,
told AFP.

Faisal Edhi, who heads the charitable Edhi Foundation that was
assisting rescuers, gave a slightly higher figure saying at least 42
dead bodies had been recovered from the area.

“As per our estimates there are around 50 more dead bodies under the
debris,” he said in a live television broadcast.

At least two passengers survived the crash, according to Syed Nasir
Hussain Shah, the information minister in Sindh province where Karachi
is located.

Plumes of smoke were sent into the air as rescue workers and
residents searched the debris for survivors and firefighters tried to
extinguish the flames. An AFP reporter witnessed charred bodies being
loaded into ambulances.

Sarfraz Ahmed — a firefighter at the crash site — told AFP the nose
of the Airbus A320 and the fuselage had been heavily damaged by the
impact, adding that rescuers had pulled four bodies from the wrecked
aircraft, including some who were still wearing seatbelts.

Seemin Jamali, a director from Jinnah Post Graduate Medical College
in the city, 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.

– Technical fault –

The plane had developed a technical fault, interior minister Ijaz
Ahmad Shah said, adding that the pilot issued a mayday call after the
craft lost an engine.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said there were 91 passengers and seven
crew on board the flight, which lost contact with air traffic control
just after 2.30pm (0930 GMT).

An aviation authority spokesperson said the number of crew on board was eight.

Residents near the scene said their walls shook before a big
explosion erupted as the aircraft 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 14-year-old witness Hassan.

Karachi resident Mudassar Ali said he “heard a big bang and woke up
to people calling for the fire brigade”.

The disaster comes as Pakistanis across the country are 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.

Abdul Sattar Khokhar, a spokesman for the country’s aviation
authority, said the Airbus A320 was travelling from Lahore to Karachi.

– ‘Prayers & condolences’ –

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “shocked and saddened”
by the crash, tweeting that he was in touch with the state airline’s
chief executive.

“Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased,” he wrote on Twitter.

Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the plane crashed into a
residential area minutes before it was due to land.

The Pakistan military said security forces had been deployed to the
neighbourhood and helicopters were being used to survey the damage and
help ongoing rescue operations, while offering condolences over the
“loss of precious lives” in the incident.

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 Pakistan International Airlines 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.

The deadliest air disaster on Pakistani soil was in 2010, when an
Airbus A321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from
Karachi crashed into the hills outside Islamabad as it came into land,
killing all 152 people on board.

An official report blamed the accident on a confused captain and a
hostile cockpit atmosphere.

PIA, one of the world’s leading airlines until the 1970s, now suffers
from a sinking reputation due to frequent cancellations, delays and
financial troubles. It has been involved in numerous controversies
over the years, including the jailing of a drunk pilot in Britain in
2013.

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