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PIA Flight Crashes In Heavily Populated Area Of Karachi

PIA Flight Crashes In Heavily Populated Area Of Karachi
Jackie Reddy

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crashed in a heavily populated residential area of Karachi on Friday, the BBC reports. The service, Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303, was attempting to land at the city’s Jinnah International Airport (KHI) at 2:39 p.m. local time. According to a statement issued by PIA, the plane, an Airbus A320, was carrying seven members of crew and 91 passengers at the time of the incident.

The crash has occurred just before the Muslim festival of Eid and right as Pakistan has relaxed its restrictions on domestic air travel in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Search For Cause Of Crash Over Model Colony

As Reuters reports, the jet crashed in the Model Colony area of the city and was in the process of making its second landing attempt when it came down. According to the news agency, the pilot of the plane reported to local air traffic control that power to both engines had suddenly been lost. A search is currently in progress for the plane’s flight recorders.

The crew then issued a mayday call and all communication with the plane was lost. The official cause of the crash has not been given, but a senior aviation official told Reuters that the jet had been unable to lower its undercarriage during its first attempt to land at KHI.

The number of casualties from the flight itself has not yet been officially confirmed, though two people are known to have survived. Offering an eyewitness account, passenger Muhammad Zubair told the BBC, “No-one was aware that the plane was about to crash; they were flying the plane in a smooth manner.”

Zubair was only lightly injured and lost consciousness when the plane crashed. Describing the scene when he regained consciousness, he said, “I could hear screams from all directions. Kids and adults. All I could see was fire. I couldn’t see any people – just hear their screams.”

“I opened my seatbelt and saw some light – I went towards the light. I had to jump down about 10ft (3m) to get to safety,” he added.

Confusion Over Casualty Figures

There are known to be casualties on the ground, with many houses destroyed in the crash area. Speaking to the BBC, eyewitness Mohammed Uzair Khan, who resides within the Model Colony area of Karachi, said, “Almost four houses were completely collapsed, there was so much fire and smoke. They are almost my neighbors, I can’t tell you what a horrible thing it was.”

At present, there are conflicting reports as to the numbers of casualties involved. As the BBC reports, “Local health officials at two hospitals, the Jinnah and Civic hospitals, gave death tolls to the BBC and Pakistani media, adding up to 76 confirmed deaths. But it was not clear how many of the dead were passengers and how many residents on the ground.”

In its statement, PIA said, “Details are still coming about the unfortunate and sad incident. PIA is doing everything possible to assist authorities at this time. As per international aviation requirement, an Emergency Response Center has been established at PIA Headquarters Karachi from where senior PIA management is monitoring the situation since the incident took place.”

It added, “Rescue efforts are under way and we are also ascertaining the extent of damage to life of those on board the aircraft. PIA is doing everything possible to help the families of passengers and crew members for first hand information regarding the incident and damage.”

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