A passenger plane crashed in a crowded neighbourhood on the edge of the international airport near Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi on Friday, killing all 107 passengers and crew, the city’s mayor said.
Mayor Wasim Akhtar said at least five or six houses were destroyed in the crash of the domestic flight operated by Pakistan International Airlines. It wasn’t immediately known if anyone was killed or wounded in the neighbourhood itself.
Police wearing protective masks struggled to clear away crowds to allow a firetruck and an ambulance to move through the narrow streets toward the crash site, the air filled with dust and smoke. Police and soldiers cordoned off the area.
A transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, indicated he had failed to land and was circling around to make another attempt.
“We are proceeding direct, sir — we have lost engine,” a pilot said.
“Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller said, offering a runway.
“Sir — mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” the pilot said before the transmission ended.
WATCH | All 107 passengers and crew dead in plane crash in Karachi, Pakistan:
The aircraft arriving from the eastern city of Lahore was carrying 99 passengers and eight crew members, said Abdul Sattar Kokhar, spokesperson for Pakistan’s civil aviation authority.
Pakistan had resumed domestic flights earlier this week ahead of the Eid-al Fitr holiday marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. Pakistan has been in a countrywide lockdown since mid-March to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
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 poor 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 before it crashed into several houses.
Video circulated on social media appeared to show the aircraft flying low over a residential area with flames shooting from one of its engines.
PM orders ‘immediate inquiry’
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash … Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased.”
Airbus did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the crash. The flight from the northeastern city of Lahore typically lasts about an hour and a half.
Airworthiness documents showed the plane last received a government check on Nov. 1, 2019. PIA’s chief engineer signed a separate certificate on April 28 saying all maintenance had been conducted. It said, “The aircraft is fully airworthy and meets all the safety” standards.
Ownership records for the Airbus A320 showed China Eastern Airlines flew the plane from 2004 until 2014. The plane then entered PIA’s fleet, leased from GE Capital Aviation Services.
Perry Bradley, a spokesperson for GE, said the firm was “aware of reports of the accident and is closely monitoring the situation.”