No fewer than 45 passengers on board of a Pakistani airlines were feared dead as it crashed into a densely populated residential area near the Jinnah International Airport here on Friday moments before landing.
The crash of flight PK 830391 with 91 passengers and eight crew on board came just days after the country restarted commercial flights following the coronavirus shutdown.
Many Pakistanis were reported to be traveling home to their families on Friday to celebrate Eid Al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said the passenger jet from Lahore to Karachi, crashed in a residential area near the airport.
At least five houses have reportedly been hit in the heavily populated Model Colony area where the plane crashed, about three kilometres north-east of Jinnah International Airport.
According to the civil aviation authority, the pilot had called in a mayday warning that he had lost an engine as the plane attempted to land.
In a transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, he is heard saying “Sir – mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” before the recording ends.
“The last we heard from the pilot was that he has some technical problem. It is a very tragic incident,” PIA spokesman Abdullah H Khan said in a video statement.
Footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the site of the crash and people running from the scene screaming, as ambulances and rescue officials arrived at the scene to help residents soon after the plane went down at 2.45pm local time.
Another video footage circulated on social media appeared to show the aircraft flying low over a residential area with flames shooting from one of its engines.
Witnesses said the Airbus A320 appeared to attempt to land two or three times before crashing in the crowded residential area, which is located in a poor part of the city.
Meanwhile, an emergency has been declared at Jinnah International Airport and government hospitals.
A grief-stricken Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had tweeted: “Shocked and saddened by the PIA crash. Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers and condolences go to families of the deceased.”