At least 97 people died when a plane crashed, in a residential neighborhood of Karachi, in southern Pakistan, Local authorities reported this Saturday.
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) apparatus, An Airbus A320 with 99 people on board was about to land when it crashed into the houses, causing an explosion and large clouds of black smoke.
The plane from Lahore was carrying 99 people (91 passengers and 8 crew members), A PIA spokesman said Saturday, rectifying an initial count that reported 98 occupants.
The last balance accounts for 97 dead and two survivors and includes all occupants of the plane, said the health services of Sindh province, the capital of which is Karachi. A local hospital reported several deaths on the ground.
One of the survivors is Zafar Masud, the president of the Bank of the Punjab, one of the most important in Pakistan, said the president of the airline, Arshad Mahmood Malik.
The rescue operations ended Saturday morning, according to authorities.
Throughout Friday, relief services and residents searched for bodies in the rubble, as firefighters attempted to extinguish the flames. A reporter from the AFP he saw charred bodies being taken to an ambulance.
- "Technical problem" -
Flight PK8303 "Lost contact with the air traffic control at 14:37 (0937 GMT)", For his part, PIA spokesman Abdulá Hafeez told local media.
According to the president of the airline, Arshad Malik, the aircraft, an Airbus A320 He was "close to landfall" at the Karachi airport when an incident occurred.
The pilot, Sajjad Gull, who according to an official statement was the most experienced in command of the Airbus A320s, complained about a problem after trying to approach the runway a second time, before the control tower lost contact with him.
PIA promised that an independent investigation will be carried out.
According to Interior Minister Ijaz Ahmad Shah, the pilot had indicated that He had "lost an engine" and then made a "distress call."
- "A big bang" -
"I saw a passenger outside the plane. (...) He was alive. She spoke. He asked me to save him, but his legs were locked in the emergency exit ", said Raja Amjad, a witness who before saw a corpse "fall on his car". He added that he did not hear "any screaming" from other passengers as the plane burned.
Inhabitants near the crash site explained that the walls shook and then there was a large explosion from the impact.
"I was coming from the mosque when I saw a plane that was tilting. The noise from the engines was quite strange. It was flying so low that the walls of my house were shaking," said Hasan, a 14-year-old witness.
Mudasar Ali, a Karachi resident, heard "a great explosion." "I woke up hearing people calling the fire brigade"he counted.
The accident coincides with the preparation across the country of the celebration of the end of Ramadan and the start of Aíd al Fitr, which leads many Pakistanis to travel back to their homes and villages.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was "shocked and sad" by the accident and wrote on Twitter that he is in contact with the director of the airline.
Commercial flights had resumed just a few days ago after being paralyzed by the coronavirus pandemic.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo relayed "his prayers for the dead or wounded and their families." United States "is with Pakistan at this difficult time"he tweeted.
Plane and helicopter accidents are frequent in Pakistan. In 2016, a PIA plane caught fire and 40 people died in the accident.
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