KARACHI – A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane with 99 passengers and crew crashed in a residential area of Karachi city on Friday, with many feared deaths, officials said.
Smoke rippled where Flight PK 8303 came down, some roofs had collapsed, and debris was scattered in the streets as ambulances dashed through chaotic crowds.
Seemin Jamali, a doctor at the nearby Jinnah Hospital, confirmed to Reuters that there were at least five corpses from the crash.
“The areoplane first hit a mobile tower and crashed over houses,” said witness Shakeel Ahmed near the site, just a few miles from the airport.
The jet, which the FlightRadar24.com website identified as a 15-year Airbus A320, flew from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi in the south, just as Pakistan resumed domestic flights after the coronavirus pandemic.
“The last thing we heard from the pilot was that he had a technical problem,” state company spokesman Abdullah H. Khan said in a video statement.
“He was told by the final approach that both runways were ready where he can land, but the pilot decided he wanted to do (one) passage … It’s a very tragic incident.”
A senior civil aviation official told Reuters that it appeared that the plane was unable to open its wheels due to a technical failure prior to landing, but it was too early to determine the cause.
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Pakistani army and rescue services rushed to the site, which appeared to be a densely populated area.
Several cars were on fire, images showed.
“The pilot was told he could land at Karachi airports, was told both runways were ready, but took a circle and called MayDay before the crash,” said another civil aviation official, Abdul Sattar Khohar, to Reuters.
“We don’t know yet if he gave a reason during the MayDay call.”
The most recent fatality in Pakistan killed 47 people when a PIA jet crashed into a mountainside in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in 2016. The country’s worst plane crash came in 2010 when an AirBlue flight crashed killing 152 people near Islamabad.
Shocked and saddened by the PIA crash. I am in touch with PIA CEO Arshad Malik, who has left for Karachi and with the rescue and relief teams on the ground, as this is now the priority, ”tweeted Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“Investigations will be launched immediately. Prayers and condolences go to families of the deceased. ”