A Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A320 flying from Lahore has crashed into a residential neighbourhood while on approach to the airport in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.
At least 30 people have been killed, with dozens more feared dead, officials say. Reports on the number of people on board the aircraft at the time of the crash varied between 91 and 99.
At least two passengers of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8303 from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi survived the crash on Friday, a health ministry spokesperson told officials. A third passenger’s survival from the crash was confirmed by a relative.
“We have received 30 bodies so far,” said Meeran Yousuf by telephone. “We have only been able to identify three of the bodies so far, due to the extreme burns.”
At least six people who were on the ground when the airliner crashed into houses in the densely populated Model Colony area of Karachi, adjacent to the city’s international airport, were being treated for their injuries, she said.
“Our plane [an Airbus] A320 which was coming from Lahore to Karachi was on final approach,” said PIA chief Arshad Malik in a video message released after the crash.
“The last words we heard from our pilot were that there is a technical problem and he was told on final approach that he has both runways available to him to land on. But the pilot decided that he wanted to go around.”
The plane then rapidly lost altitude and crashed short of the runway into the Model Colony neighbourhood, witnesses told the local media.
Dense plumes of black smoke rose above houses in the narrow streets of the neighbourhood, with television footage showing several houses crushed from the impact of the aircraft.
Parts of the plane, including the emergency exit door, were seen strewn in the streets.
Pakistan’s military said it had deployed helicopters to assess the damage and help ferry the dead and wounded to the hospitals.
An emergency was declared in all of the city’s hospitals, already reeling from a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus, provincial health minister Azra Pechucho told reporters.
“We are doing DNA testing of the dead bodies so that they can be identified and they can be given to their families,” she said.
“We were already in an emergency situation due to COVID, we were already alert … and now we have put the surgical units on alert as well.”
Pakistan resumed limited domestic flight operations last week, after a lengthy suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed more than 1,067 lives in the South Asian nation, according to the government data.
The Airbus A320, operated by Pakistan’s national flag carrier, was due to land in Karachi at 2:45pm local time (09:45 GMT) after an hour and a half in the air after departing Lahore earlier in the day.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an immediate inquiry into Friday’s crash.