Survivors have been pulled from the wreckage after a Pakistani passenger aircraft carrying 98 people crashed into a residential area on its approach to Karachi’s airport.
At least 31 people were confirmed dead and the toll was expected to rise as emergency services searched the crash site in the city’s Model Colony neighbourhood.
The pilot of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Airbus A320 jet called in to air traffic control describing a technical fault minutes before the crash.
At least three people on the plane survived, according to Meeran Yousuf, a media coordinator for the Sindh state health minister.
They included the president of the Bank of Punjab, Zafar Masud, who was “out of danger” in hospital. The two others were identified as Mohammed Zubair and Tahira Mahmoud.
“So far we have a total of 31 dead bodies, but we were only able to identify three of them because the rest were extremely burned,” said Yousuf. “The plane crash was in a residential area so it is proving difficult to get the bodies out and there were also residents who were injured as well. We’ve had seven residents from the area brought into the hospital, of which six are in severe condition in the burns unit. The rescue operation is still continuing, with a focus on finding more bodies.”
A transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, 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 can be heard saying in the recording.
“Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller says, offering a runway.
“Sir – mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” the pilot says before the transmission ends.
The PIA chief executive, Arshad Malik, said he would visit the crash site and investigate the technical issue reported by the pilot.
Flight PK8303 was on a domestic journey from Lahore and was minutes from Jinnah international airport when it crashed at about 2.45pm local time. Video footage showed billowing black smoke and people running screaming from the crash site.
At least five houses caught fire. A schoolteacher working nearby said she had heard a “huge crash – it felt like doomsday. I saw smoke rising from the next street.”
Asad Ishaq, who lives a few streets away from where the plane crashed, told the Guardian there was panic in the area.
“The entire area has been sealed off by the army as they have stepped in for the rescue mission,” said Ishaq. “They are not allowing anyone to go near the site and there is complete panic here.”
The Sindh governor, Imran Ismail, said: “The concern now is of casualties of people in the area. Rangers and rescue services have been sent. We are trying to save as many lives as possible.”
The prime minister, Imran Khan, tweeted: “Shocked and saddened by the PIA crash. Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers and condolences go to families of the deceased.”
Domestic commercial flights resumed last weekend following a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
On Friday many people were travelling to their families in cities and villages across the country to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr