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37 Dead in Pak Plane Crash

KARACHI:At least 37 people have died when a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane with 99 people on board crashed into a densely populated residential area near the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on Friday.

Flight PK-8303 from Lahore was about to land in Karachi when it crashed at the Jinnah Garden area near Model Colony in Malir, just a minute before its landing.

The PIA Airbus A320 carrying 91 passengers and eight crew members crashed landed into Modern Colony near the airport, a spokesperson of the state carrier said.

Sindh Health Minister Azra Pechuho said that 37 bodies have so far been shifted to hospitals. There are at least four survivors of the crash.

As per the local media reports, the aircraft had lost both its engines. Eyewitnesses said the engines were on fire. The aircraft’s tail hit a four-storey building in Jinnah Garden area of Model Colony that borders the airport runways. The visuals on the local media show a huge plume of smoke coming out from some houses in Karachi’s Model colony.

While 37 people have been confirmed dead in the incident, at least four have been pulled out alive from under the debris. Bank of Punjab President Zafar Masood, who was a Premium Economy passenger, on the flight has survived. He is in hospital and spoke to his mother over the phone. The CEO fo Pak PSU Urban Unit, Khalid Sherdil, was also among the passengers and has survived the crash. 

 Another passenger Ammar Rashid, who was on the plane, has survived the crash and is being treated for his injuries at a nearby hospital, his family has said on social media. Mohammed Zubir, seated on 8F, has also survived the crash and has been admitted to a hospital.

A media channel in Pakistan has confirmed that one of its senior staff members Ansar Naqvi has lost his life in the crash.

Saad Edhi, a spokesperson of the Edhi welfare trust, said that around 25 to 30 residents whose houses were damaged by the plane have also been taken to the hospital, mostly with burn wounds.

“The first priority is to rescue people. The main hurdle is narrow streets and the presence of ordinary people who gathered at the place after the crash but they have been dispersed,” the minister said.

Rescue and police officials confirmed that at least four bodies have been recovered from damaged houses so far while several injured people were also being taken to hospitals.

The PIA crash site in  Model Colony in the Jinnah Garden area, is at a stone-throw away from the Karachi airport.  The majority of residents of the colony are the people, who migrated from India in 1947 during partition. As per the local journalists, most of these people or their ancestors had come from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. It is a well inhabited and developed colony, they said.

The PIA flight PK 8303 had taken off from Lahore at 1 pm and was supposed to land at Karachi airport at 2:45 when the crash took place.

PIA CEO Air Vice Marshal Arshad Malik says that the pilot of PK8303 had told ATC that the plane was experiencing “technical difficulties” – both runways were available for landing but the pilot did a go-aroun. He said that a probe will be conducted to find out what exactly happened.

The Airbus A320 appeared to attempt to land two or three times before crashing.

A senior civil aviation official said it appeared the plane was unable to open its wheels due to a technical fault prior to landing, but it was to early to determine the cause.

As per the data released by FlightRadar, a flight monitoring site, PIA flight PK 8303 took off from Lahore 1:05 PM (Pak timing). At 2:34 PM, the aircraft made a landing attempt that was aborted at 275 feet and the aircraft climbed up to 3175 feet. Signal was lost at 02:40 at 525 feet.

According to an audio clipping of conversation between the ill-fated PK 8303’s pilot and air traffic control room, the pilot’s last words were that they have lost engines.

The aircraft involved in the crash was a 15-year-old Airbus A320 with registration AP-BLD.

Airworthiness documents, accessed by Associated Press, 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.

Ownership records for the Airbus A320 involved in the crash showed China Eastern Airlines flew the plane from 2004 until 2014. The plane then entered PIA’s fleet, leased from GE Capital Aviation Services.

The manufacturer of the plane, Airbus, has expressed regret over the incident in a statement. “We regret to confirm that an A320 operated by Pakistan International Airlines was involved in an accident during flight PK8303 from Lahore to Karachi on May, 22 2020. Our thoughts are with all those affected. Airbus is providing assistance to the investigation.”

Pakistan had resumed commercial passenger air travel on May 16 after a prolonged nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 outbreak.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed grief over the crash, “Deeply saddened by the loss of life due to a plane crash in Pakistan. Our condolences to the families of the deceased, and wishing speedy recovery to those injured.”

Ambulances, fire tenders and relief teams have reached the site of the crash, however, a large crowd gathered at the crash site is causing difficulties for the rescue workers. Pakistan’s armed forces have also put out a statement saying that their teams are on the spot. “Army Quick Reaction Force & Pakistan Rangers Sindh troops reached the incident site for relief and rescue efforts alongside civil administration. Details to follow,” DG ISPR, Pakistan Army’s spokesperson tweeted.

“Pak Army Aviation helicopters flown for damage assessment and rescue efforts. Urban Search & Rescue Teams are being sent on-site for rescue efforts,” it also said.A senior Pakistani bureaucrat has said PM Imran Khan has directed all emergency services to mobilised to manage the tragedy. “Our heart goes out to all families of onboard passengers of the ill-fated PIA plane that just crashed close to Karachi Airport. On PM’s directions, all emergency services and resources mobilised, evacuation in progress,” Asim Saleem Bajwa said.

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 northern to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.

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.

The crash 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.

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