At least 60 people were killed as a Pakistan International Airline (PIA) passenger plane from Lahore to Karachi crashed minutes before landing at the Jinnah International Airport on Friday.
The PIA A320 passenger aircraft was carrying at least 90 passengers and eight crew members in the flight PK 8303, when it crashed into the densely populated vicinity called Jinnah Gardens, Model Colony, located next to the runway of the airport. PIA Spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez confirmed the accident
According to Sindh health officials, at least 60 people were killed but it was not clear whether these included passengers on the plane only or residents of the houses in which the plane had crashed, the Dawn reported.
Sindh Health Minister Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho said that three people had survived but an aide later said that only two were passengers.
Meeran Yousuf, the media coordinator for the Sindh Health Minister, told Dawn.com that two passengers had survived and were brought to hospitals. She identified the survivors as Zubair and Zafar Masood, who is the President of Bank of Punjab.
“Zubair has 35 per cent burns and is being treated at the Civil Hospital Karachi, while Masood has four fractures and is being treated at the Darul Sehat Hospital,” said Yousuf, adding that both were in stable condition.
A third person, who had earlier been identified as a survivor from the plane, was later identified to be a resident of the area where the plane crashed.
PIA CEO, Air Marshal Arshad Malik maintained that the plane seemed to have technical issues.
“Unfortunately, today a tragic incident has occurred. I can tell this that the last words heard from the pilot were that there was some technical issue. And even though both runways were cleared for landing, the pilot wanted to take another turn,” the CEO said.
One eyewitness said that the plane first hit a mobile tower before crashing into the houses.
“The aeroplane first hit a mobile tower and crashed over houses,” said Shakeel.
Initial reports suggested that all 98 passengers, including cabin crew, may have died in the crash. However after rescue operations gained momentum, some people did manage to survive the crash.
However, the actual numbers of fatalities is not yet confirmed.
Eyewitnesses say that the plane crashed on two houses while at least seven other houses have also been badly damaged. A rescue operation has been launched as dead bodies along with the injured are being taken to the hospitals.
“Till now, at least 17 dead bodies have been brought to the Jinnah hospital while at least 4 are being shifted to Civil hospital as we have run out of our capacity,” said Dr. Seemi Jamali, Executive Director of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.
The recognition of the dead has become impossible as per an immense degree of burns, due to which the DNA collection will be processed to identify the deceased.
Reason for the crash will be ascertained after the inquiry is done and information from the black box, recovered from the crash site is extracted.
However, it is being speculated that technical issue, as stated by the pilot also, was due to the landing gear that failed to open at the time of landing. Other speculation is of multiple bird hits that caused the plane to crash less than a minute away from the runway.
The crash came just days after Pakistan allowed the domestic flights to resume operations after being grounded for days due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is also pertinent to mention here that the PIA’s Engineering Department had already told the administration of the airlines several times that the aircraft was unfit for flight as it had several technical issues in some parts of its engine. They had made these revelations in writing to the respective administration.
Captain Narejo, General Secretary of the Pakistan Airline Pilots’ Association (PALPA), has stated that it would be too early to decipher what might have caused the crash, as it wouldn’t be appropriate to cause suspicion and distress among the public.
Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has offered condolences to the families of the departed and has ensured an immediate inquiry is instituted. Federal Minister for Aviation, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, expressed his grief and sorrow over the tragedy and has instructed the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board to come up with a prompt inquiry report for the incident.