Pakistani passenger jet crashes near Karachi airport

An Airbus A320 carrying more than 100 people on Friday crashed into a residential area near the southern Pakistani city of Karachi. 

At least 56 bodies have been recovered, with authorities fearing dozens more may be dead.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez told DW: “Flight PK 8303 was carrying 99 passengers and 8 crew members from Lahore to Karachi.”

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

Government officials told reporters that at least two people had survived, likely people sitting in the front row of the plane.

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.”

Rescue operation

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 under way. 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/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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

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