A Pakistani airliner with a hundred people on board crashed Friday on a residential area of Karachi, the big city of the south of the country.
Public television footage showed thick black smoke rising to the sky behind a seemingly new house. Firefighters were trying to extinguish debris from buildings, while military helicopters patrolled over the area.
“There were 91 passengers and 7 crew members” on board flight PK8303 of the national company Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), “which lost contact with air traffic control at 2:37 pm,” said the spokesman for PIA, Abdullah Hafeez, to local media. “It is too early to comment on the causes of the crash,” he said.
Pakistan Aviation Authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar initially said “99 passengers and eight crew members”, adding that the flight was from Lahore, the second city from the country.
The Pakistani military tweeted that it had sent a rapid response force, along with paramilitary elements, to the scene of the accident, who arrived there.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “shocked and saddened” by the disaster, addressing his “prayers and condolences to the families and missing persons” on Twitter.
According to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the plane was damaged “a few minutes before it landed” with on board “people returning home for Eid” el-Kebir, the celebration of the end of Ramadan , the most important holiday for Muslims.
“I was leaving the mosque when I saw the plane tilt to one side,” said Hassan, 14. “The engine noises were quite bizarre. The plane was so low that the walls (…) were shaking, “he added.
The disaster comes just days after the country authorized the resumption of domestic commercial flights. For more than a month, domestic connections had been suspended to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Very few international flights had been maintained.
Pakistan has a mixed record for aviation safety, with frequent crashes of civil and military aircraft and helicopters over the years.
The last major air accident in Pakistan dates back to December 2016, when an airliner of the national company PIA carrying out a domestic flight had crashed in the mountainous north of the country, killing 47 people.
The deadliest crash in recent years in Pakistan was in 2010. An Airbus 321 from the private Airblue, flying from Karachi to Islamabad, had crashed in the hills shortly before landing in the capital, killing 152 people in edge.