Pak plane carrying 152 crashes, no survivors (updated)

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Updated Report:

Islamabad 28 July 2010: A government official says all 152 people on board a plane that crashed in the hills surrounding Pakistan’s capital were killed. Imtiaz Elahi, the chairman of the Capital Development Authority, told The Associated Press that earlier reports of five survivors from the crash were wrong and that all aboard died. The Capital Development Authority has a group that responds to emergency situations.


"Now we are pretty sure that there is not a single survivor," Hanif Khattak, the director general of Pakistan’s Civil Defense, told The Associated Press near the crash site. Local TV footage showed twisted metal wreckage hanging from trees and scattered across the ground on a bed of broken branches. Fire was visible and smoke rose from the scene as a helicopter hovered above. The army said it was sending special troops to aid the search.



"I’m seeing only body parts," Dawar Adnan, a rescue worker with the Pakistan Red Crescent, told The Associated Press by telephone from the crash site. "This is a very horrible scene. We have scanned almost all the area, but there is no chance of any more survivors." The search effort was hampered by muddy conditions and smoldering wreckage that authorities were having trouble extinguishing by helicopter, Adnan said.


The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, said Pervez George, a civil aviation official. The plane left the southern city of Karachi at 7:45 a.m. for a two-hour scheduled flight to Islamabad and was trying to land during cloudy and rainy weather. Airblue is a private service based in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and Wednesday’s flight was believed to be carrying mostly Pakistanis.



Rescue workers scouring the heavily forested hills recovered 50 bodies from the wreckage, said Ramzan Sajid, spokesman for Capital Development Authority, which reports to the Interior Ministry and has a group that deals with emergencies. "The plane was about to land at the Islamabad airport when it lost contact with the control tower, and later we learned that the plane had crashed," said George, adding the model was an Airbus 321 and the flight number was ED202.


At the Islamabad airport, hundreds of friends and relatives of those on board the flight swarmed ticket counters desperately seeking information. A large cluster of people also surrounded a passenger list posted near the Airblue ticket counter. "We don’t know who survived, who died, who is injured," said Zulfikar Ghazi, who was waiting to receive four relatives. "We are in shock."



Saqlain Altaf told Pakistan’s ARY news channel he was on a family outing in the hills when he saw the plane looking unsteady in the air. "The plane had lost balance, and then we saw it going down," he said, adding he heard the crash. Officials at first thought it was a small plane, but later revised that. George said 146 passengers were on the flight along with six crew members.


The Pakistan Airline Pilot Association said the plane appeared to have strayed off course, possibly because of the poor weather. Raheel Ahmed, a spokesman for the airline, said the plane was no more than eight-years old, and it had no known technical issues. The pilots did not send any emergency signals, he said.



The last major plane crash in Pakistan was in July 2006 when a Fokker F-27 twin-engine aircraft operated by Pakistan International Airlines slammed into a wheat field on the outskirts of the central Pakistani city of Multan, killing all 45 people on board. Airblue flies within Pakistan as well as internationally to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the United Kingdom.


The only previous recorded accident for Airblue, a carrier that began flying in 2004, was a tail-strike in May 2008 at Quetta airport by one of the airline’s Airbus 321 jets. There were no casualties and damage was minimal, according to the U.S.-based Aviation Safety Network. The Airbus 320 family of medium-range jets, which includes the 321 model that crashed Wednesday, is one of the most popular in the world, with about 4,000 jets delivered since deliveries began in 1988.



Twenty-one of the aircraft have been lost in accidents since then, according to the Aviation Safety Network’s database. The deadliest was a 2007 crash at landing in Sao Paolo by Brazil’s TAM airline, in which all 187 people on board perished, along with 12 others on the ground.


Morning Report: Passenger jet crashes in Pakistan, 152 on board

Islamabad, 28 July 2010:  A commercial Pakistani passenger plane with 152 people on board crashed in bad weather in hills near the capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people, officials said. The Airbus 321, belonging to private airliner Airblue, lost contact with the control room of the Islamabad International Airport at 0443 GMT while flying from the southern port city of Karachi. 



The plane was carrying 146 passengers and six crewmen. "Dead bodies are lying all around and very few might have survived in the accident," Bin Yameen, a senior police official of Islamabad, told Reuters. "Bodies are being lifted through helicopters." At least 10 people were killed and five injured, Imtiaz Elahi, chairman of the state-run Capital Development Authority, told reporters.


Bin Yameen said a woman was alive at the scene and crying for help. A thick blanket of cloud and smoke caused by fire could be seen rising from the heavily wooded crash site. A helicopter hovered overhead and flames licked at trees and what appeared to be wreckage from the plane, television pictures showed. "It was raining. I saw the plane flying very low from the window of my office," witness Khadim Hussain said.



The crash site is low on the Margalla Hills facing Islamabad, about 300 metres up the side of the hills. Smoke was visible from the tonier districts of the city, and crowds of onlookers lined the streets pointing and watching the smoke rise from the green hills.


Pakistan’s AAJ television showed rescue workers making their way on foot to the crash site with some difficulty. A young man was weeping and being embraced by another man—with woods in the background. The military said it had sent three helicopters to the site and troops had also been moved there.


Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani ordered authorities to control the fire immediately and rescue passengers.

Heavy rains


Reports said there had been heavy monsoon rains in the area for at least a couple of days. Airblue began operations in 2004 with a fleet of Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, the company said on its website. Airbus confirmed one of its planes was involved in the Airblue crash.


"We regret to confirm there has been an accident with an Airbus aircraft and we will provide more information when we have more confirmed data available," said Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath. At the Islamabad’s international airport, passengers in the departure lounge scanned the television screens for news.


"I’m not surprised something like this has happened," said Ahmed Fairuz, a passenger awaiting departure. "The weather is just too bad for flying."



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