At least 92 people were killed in plane crash in the southern port city of Karachi, officials said Saturday.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8303, traveling from northeastern Lahore, crashed Friday into a residential area near Jinnah International Airport while landing with 99 passengers and crew onboard, the Civil Aviation Authority confirmed in a statement.
The crash occurred days after the resumption of domestic flights following a month-long lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an inquiry into the second plane crash since 2016.
The health department in Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, confirmed 60 bodies were taken to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center and 32 bodies were taken to Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital. Twenty of the injured are in critical condition and were also taken to Ruth Pfau.
Authorities, who earlier were unclear if the dead and injured were passengers or residents on the ground, later said all of the deceased were passengers on the plane but several residents were injured in the crash.
Two people, including renowned banker Zafar Masood, are confirmed to have survived the crash. Their conditions were stated as stable by doctors.
Nineteen of the dead have been identified but most bodies are burned beyond recognition, said health officials.
Officials began to collect DNA samples to identify the deceased.
Among the passengers who were headed to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, included senior journalist Ansar Naqvi.
Rescuers believe only seven people are trapped under the rubble and no one from the area is missing.
Authorities moved dozens of residents to a local hotel after their houses were completely or partially destroyed.
Footage which aired on Geo News showed clouds of smoke billowing from the burning wreckage. Several vehicles also caught fire.
“The plane came down so fast. I could not understand at the first moment what was happening,” Rana Jawed told reporters.
The plane caught fire before it fell following a “deafening explosion,” he said.
Honking ambulances, and fire brigade vehicles rushed to the scene, where crowds of area residents had already gathered.
Army and police personnel reached the site to assist rescue operations but narrow streets hampered the movement of rescue vehicles.
“The plane started to shake close to landing. I thought it was just because of landing. But seconds after, there was a huge blast, and I lost my senses” Zubair, an engineer who was heading home to celebrate Eid with his family in Karachi, told Geo News from a hospital by telephone. “Everything was smooth and normal until the plane tried to make an emergency landing at a runway but couldn’t make it.”
He said the pilot made an announcement for landing but the plane suddenly glided and hit the buildings.
“There was fire, smoke, and screams all around when I regained my senses. I unfasten my seatbelt, and got out through a broken part of the plane,” he said.
Zubair, who sustained only minor burn injuries, was picked up by area residents who reached the site first, and taken to a hospital.
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez told reporters it is early to comment on possible causes for the crash. “The plane was not old, and well-maintained,” he said.
But an initial investigation report suggested multiple birds collided with the plane, Geo News said.
According to witnesses, the plane crashed a few hundred feet from the runway.
The last contact between the pilot and the control tower aired on Geo TV and suggested the crash was result of an engine failure.
“I have lost the engine,” pilot Sajjad Gul, who too lost his life in the crash, told the control tower in a Mayday message.
Gul’s last word was “Roger” in response to the control tower’s directive that two runways are open for emergency landing.
Khan and other officials expressed grief for the loss of lives.
“Shocked, and saddened by the PIA crash. Am in touch with PIA CEO Arshad Malik, who has left for Karachi, and with the rescue, and relief teams on ground as this is the priority right now. Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased,” Khan said in a twitter post.
A PIA plane crashed on the foothills of northwestern Chitral, killing all 48 passengers onboard in December 2016. In 2012, a private airline’s Airbus crashed on the foothills Islamabad in bad weather, killing all 121 passengers and 6 crew members onboard.