A Pakistan passenger plane with more than 100 people believed to be on board crashed in the southern city of Karachi, the country’s aviation authority said.
Images aired on national television showed the Pakistan International Airlines flight had smashed into a residential area today, with clouds of thick black smoke billowing from the site.
“The plane crashed in Karachi. We are trying to confirm the number of passengers but initially it is 99 passengers and eight crew members,” said Abdul Sattar Khokhar, the spokesman for the country’s aviation authority, adding that the flight was coming from Lahore.
There were no immediate reports on the number of casualties but officials said they feared many dead.
“The last we heard from the pilot was that he has some technical problem,” PIA spokesman Abdullah H. Khan said in a video statement.
“It is a very tragic incident.”
A senior civil aviation official told Reuters it appeared the plane was unable to open its wheels due to a technical fault prior to landing, but it was to early to determine the cause.
Witnesses said the Airbus A320 appeared to attempt to land two or three times before crashing in a residential area near Jinnah International Airport.
The residential area on the edge of the airport known as Model Colony is a poor area and heavily congested.
A resident of the area, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the aircraft circle at least three times, appearing to try to land at the airport before it crashed into several houses.
Police and military had cordoned off the area.
Local television reports showed smoke coming from the direction of the airport. Ambulances were on their way to the airport.
The Pakistani army said its quick reaction force and paramilitary troops had reached the site for relief and rescue efforts alongside civil administration bodies.
The flight typically takes an hour and a half to travel from the northeastern city of Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province to Karachi.
It comes just days after the country began allowing commercial flights to resume after planes were grounded during a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.
Pakistan has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.
In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while flying from the remote northern to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.
The crash comes as Pakistanis across the country are preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, with many travelling back to their homes in cities and villages.
More to come