World

Pakistan plane crash in crowded Karachi neighbourhood kills dozens

A jetliner carrying 98 people crashed Friday in a crowded neighbourhood near the airport in Pakistan's port city of Karachi after an apparent engine failure during landing. Officials said there were at least two survivors from the plane.

At least 2 survivors among 98 travelling from Lahore to Karachi

Firefighters spray water on the wreckage of a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft after it crashed in a residential area in Karachi on Friday. (Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images)

The latest:

  • Ottawa not aware of any Canadians on the flight.
  • Dozens of bodies recovered so far.
  • At least 2 survived the crash.
  • Plane with a capacity for 180 was carrying 91 passengers, 7 crew members.

A jetliner carrying 98 people crashed Friday in a crowded neighbourhood near the airport in Pakistan's port city of Karachi after an apparent engine failure during landing.

Officials said there were at least two survivors from the plane, that it was unknown how many people on the ground were hurt, and that at least five houses were destroyed.

As darkness settled over the crash site, floodlights illuminated the wreckage, where crews were still recovering bodies. A portable morgue was set up.

At least 57 bodies were recovered, health department officials said, and Pakistan International Airlines chairman Arshad Malik said finding all the dead could take two to three days.

At least two people aboard survived, according to the Sindh provincial health department, revising an earlier statement that three were alive.

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."

World leaders expressed condolences, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Global Affairs Canada said it was not aware of any Canadian citizens affected by the crash.

The pilot of Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303 was heard transmitting a mayday to the tower shortly before the crash of the Airbus A320, which was flying from Lahore to Karachi. Video on social media appeared to show the jet flying low over a residential area with flames shooting from one of its engines.

The plane came to rest at about 2:39 p.m. local time between houses smashed by its wings in a narrow alley in the poor and congested residential area known as Model Colony. Police in protective masks struggled to clear away crowds amid the smoke and dust so ambulances and fire trucks could get through.

1st week of domestic flights after lockdown

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 because of the coronavirus, with Southern Sindh, where Karachi is the capital, the epicentre of virus infections.

WATCH | Pakistan International Airlines plane crashes in Karachi, Pakistan:

Witnesses report seeing the plane circle the airport three times before crashing into a poor neighbourhood as it attempted to land. 0:59

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.

Plane circled a few times: witness

Witnesses said the Airbus A320 appeared to attempt to land two or three times before crashing in a residential area near Jinnah International Airport.

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.

(CBC News)

Pakistan officials said the plane had 91 passengers and seven crew members on board, revising earlier statements from airport officials. The airport in Lahore, where the Pakistan International Airlines flight originated on Friday, initially said there were 107 people on board. A spokesperson for Pakistan's civil aviation authority attributed the discrepancy to confusion in the tense aftermath of the crash.

In a statement issued Friday, Airbus said its "thoughts are with those affected" by the crash and confirmed it is "providing assistance to the investigation." 

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."

The plane had logged 47,100 flight hours and 25,860 flights before Friday, according to figures from Airbus.

Men walk on the debris at the site of the passenger plane crash. The mayor of Karachi says there were no survivors among the passengers or crew, though subsequent reports suggested there were some survivors. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)