/ 28 July 2010

Pakistan plane crashes with dozens on board

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 4.43am 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, chairperson 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 300m up the side of the hills. Smoke was visible from some 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 spokesperson Stefan Schaffrath.

At 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.”

Forty-five people were killed when a passenger plane belonging to Pakistan International Airlines crashed near the central city of Multan in 2006. — Reuters