There are grave fears the lives of those on board a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane carrying 99 passengers and crew that crashed into a residential area of Karachi on Friday,
“At the moment we have the view that there will be no survivors from the plane itself but it is not confirmed,” the city’s mayor Waseem Akhtar told Reuters by phone from the scene of the crash.
He said there were thought to be survivors from the area where the plane crashed.
Pakistani civil aviation officials contradicted the mayor’s claims, however, saying at least two people survived the crash.
The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
Local TV stations ran footage of a man on a stretcher who they said had survived the crash.
The state carrier said flight PK 8303 had crashed with 99 passengers and eight crew members on board, though civil aviation officials said.. “The last we heard from the pilot was that he has some technical problem,” PIA spokesman Abdullah H Khan said in a video statement. “It is a very tragic incident.
Pakistani model Zara Abid, who has nearly 80,000 Instagram followers, is believed to be one of the victims on the doomed aircraft.
It has been reported that the social media star is missing and that her parents are desperately trying to contact her.
Just three days ago she posted a glamourous image of herself in a helicopter saying, “Fly high, it’s good.”
A senior civil aviation official told Reuters it appeared the plane was unable to open its wheels due to a technical fault prior to landing, but it was too early to determine the cause.
Moments before the crash, the desperate pilot contacted air traffic control saying: “We have lost two engines. Mayday, mayday, mayday. It’s serious.”
Geo TV broadcaster showed crowds near the scene, which appeared to be a densely populated area, and ambulances trying to make their way through. Black smoke billowed and several cars were on fire.
The Pakistani army said its quick reaction force and paramilitary troops had reached the site for relief and rescue efforts alongside civil administration bodies.
A senior civil aviation official told Reuters 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.
Witnesses said the Airbus A320 appeared to attempt to land two or three times before crashing in a residential area near Jinnah International Airport.
The residential area on the edge of the airport known as Model Colony is a poor area and heavily congested.
A resident of the area, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the aircraft circle at least three times, appearing to try to land at the airport before it crashed into several houses.
Police and military had cordoned off the area.
Local television reports showed smoke coming from the direction of the airport.
Ambulances were on their way to the airport.
The flight typically takes an hour and a half to travel from the northeastern city of Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province to Karachi.
It 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 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.
The crash comes as Pakistanis across the country are preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, with many travelling back to their homes in cities and villages.
More to come