Scores Feared Dead As Passenger Jet Crashes In Pakistan


Friday, May 22nd 2020, 10:28 am
By: CBS News


A passenger jet carrying 98 people crashed Friday into a residential neighborhood of the Pakistani city of Karachi. Pakistan International Airlines said flight PK 8303 went down carrying 91 passengers and 7 crew.

There was no official word on the number of casualties, but Pakistan's leader tweeted condolences "to the families of the deceased." 

Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar was quoted by The Associated Press as telling reporters at the scene that all those who had been on board the jetliner died in the crash, but officials with the national government said at least two people from the plane were believed to have survived.

Some of the confusion was likely between casualties among those on the ground when the plane came down — it destroyed five or six houses — and those on board the aircraft.  

CBS News' Maria Usman said the PIA Airbus A320 crashed into a neighborhood called Jinnah Gardens, close to the port city of Karachi's airport. 

A source at the airport told CBS News the pilot had informed the control tower that one of the plane's two engines had failed. The control tower told the pilot that two runways were clear for landing, but air traffic control lost communication with the crew and the plane crashed shortly after. Witnesses reported seeing an engine on fire before the plane came down.

Rescue efforts were underway and an official with Pakistan's Interior Ministry told CBS News there were survivors, but no numbers could be confirmed, and it was unclear whether he was referring to people who had been on the ground or in the plane at the time of the crash.

A video shared online by Pakistan's GEO TV showed an emergency crew trying to reach the scene through rubble, with flames still visible in the background. Others showed huge clouds of black smoke billowing up between tightly packed buildings in the residential neighborhood.

Abdul Sattar Khokhar, spokesman for the country's aviation authority, confirmed that the flight had been flying to Karachi from Lahore. The Associated Press quoted witnesses as saying the Airbus A320 appeared to have tried to land at least a couple times before crashing into the residential area near Karachi's Jinnah International Airport.

The crash came just days after the country began allowing commercial flights to resume after planes were grounded during a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

It also comes as Pakistanis across the country are preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, with many travelling back to their homes in cities and villages. 

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan sent his condolences to the victims of the crash in a tweet, vowing an immediate investigation into the disaster.

Pakistan has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years. 

In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while flying from the remote northern to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.