Over 100 killed in Islamabad plane crash (Fourth Lead)

July 28th, 2010 - 6:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Benazir Bhutto By Awais Saleem
Islamabad, July 28 (IANS) A private Pakistani airline jet crashed amid heavy rain in the thickly forested Margalla Hills near this Pakistani capital Wednesday morning, killing at least 100 passengers.

Airblue flight 202, coming in from Turkey via Karachi, abruptly lost contact with the airport here and crashed near the popular Damanekoh resort at about 9.45 a.m., about two hours after it had taken off from Karachi.

Salahuddin Gull, a former Pakistan International Airlines flight operations manager, told IANS that that the crash was likely to be a result of low visibility.

The wreckage turned into a ball of flame and plumes of thick smoke rose through the wet sky. A rescue official said he had seen burnt bodies and parts of the plane spread all over the Margalla valley.

There were 147 people on board the Airbus A-321, including six children and six crew members.

Hampered by rain, rescue staff struggled to reach the crash site in an inaccessible and difficult terrain. The aircraft wreckage was spread in a wide area on both sides of the valley.

An official said 80 bodies had been recovered.

The rescuers formed a three kilometre long human chain to evacuate the bodies. Heavy equipment required to cut through the debris of the aircraft were unable to reach the site.

There were widely conflicting reports on the number of survivors. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that five people had survived the crash. However, Xinhua quoted sources at the crash site as saying that there were no survivors.

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight had taken off from Islamabad for Karachi at about the same time but was diverted to Lahore because of bad weather.

Eyewitnesses said they saw the ill-fated plane flying very low.

Saqlain Altaf told a Pakistani news channel that he was on a family outing in the hills that skirt Islamabad when he saw the plane, looking unsteady in the air.

“The plane had lost balance, and then we saw it going down,” he said.

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

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

Of the 159 confirmed passengers, 12 people with confirmed tickets couldn’t catch the flight as they were late.

And some were not so lucky. A couple on board had reportedly married just three days ago and were going to Islamabad on their honeymoon while six school children were travelling to Islamabad to attend the session of youth parliament.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani cancelled his cabinet meeting and took an aerial view of the crash site along with the chief ministers of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pathtunkhwa.

The civil aviation authority formed an inquiry board headed by air commodore Abdul Majeed to probe the crash.

There were chaotic scenes at the airport here. 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.

The aircraft captain was Pervez Iqbal Chaudhary while Muntajibud Din was his co-pilot. Shazia Razzaq, Umme Habiba, Hina Usman and Naheed were the flight attendents.

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