At least 100 feared dead in plane crash near Islamabad (Third Lead)

July 28th, 2010 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Benazir Bhutto By Awais Saleem
Islamabad, July 28 (IANS) At least 100 people are feared dead when an aircraft of a private airline carrying 159 people crashed amid heavy rain in the wooded Margalla Hills skirting the Pakistani capital Wednesday morning, civil aviation officials and police said.

The Airblue flight 202, flying from Karachi to Islamabad, suddenly lost contact with the airport here and crashed near the popular Damanekoh resort in the Margalla Hills at about 9.45 a.m. Fire and plumes of thick smoke emitting from the wreckage site were clearly visible from Damanekoh.

There were 159 people on board, including six children and six crew members. Many of the passengers were coming from Turkey where the flight originated.

The Islamabad-bound flight had taken off from Karachi at 7.50 a.m. Wednesday where it was in transit from Istanbul when it was reported to have suddenly lost contact with the control tower of Islamabad airport when nearing the capital in inclement weather.

Eyewitnesses saw the A-320 Airbus taking a very low flight.

Saqlain Altaf, an eyewitness, told a Pakistani news channel that 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.

The rescue staff faced a major difficulty due to inaccessible and difficult terrain where vehicles cannot reach. The aircraft wreckage was spread in a wide area on both sides of the valley.

Armed forces were summoned to help in rescue efforts and emergency has been declared in the hospitals.

Civil Aviation spokesman Pervez George said that flight was allowed go ahead after all necessary weather and technical checks. George said: “The plane was flying from Karachi to Islamabad and it lost contact with us at around 09.45 local time (0445 GMT).”

Some areas of the Margalla Hills are fitted with anti-aircraft guns and many Pakistani troop checkpoints are located on the wooded hills.

There were chaotic scenes at the airport here and emergency response centres had been activated to provide details.

Anxious relatives thronged the Benazir Bhutto International Airport to get information about their dear ones. A man cried inconsolably as he waited outside the airport to learn about the fate of the passengers.

Mohammed Usman, an official at the airport, told Dawn News that dozens of relatives of passengers gathered there were crying and desperate to get information about their loved ones.

The aircraft captain was Pervez Iqbal Chaudhary while Muntajibud Din was his co-pilot.

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