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Plane Crashes in Pakistan With at Least 91 Aboard

2020-05-22 13:22:18
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistan International Airlines plane with at least 91 people aboard crashed on Friday in a residential area near the airport in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, officials said.

The plane, Flight 8303, an Airbus A320, was en route from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi and crashed at 2:37 p.m., officials said.

No information about casualties was immediately available, and there were conflicting reports about how many people had been on the plane.

Initial news reports said the plane had skidded off the rooftops of several houses before bursting into flame. Thick plumes of smoke billowed up from the crash site.

Officials said civil and military officials had begun a rescue operation.

The pilot told the control tower that he was having technical difficulties, according to Air Vice Marshal Arshad Malik, the chief executive of Pakistan International Airlines, the national carrier. He said the airline was trying to determine what those difficulties were.

“The pilot was told that both runways were ready for him to land,” Mr. Malik told a Pakistani TV channel. “However, the pilot decided to do a go-around. Why did he do that, due to what technical reason, that we will find out.”

The A320 typically has around 180 seats. The crash happened days after Pakistan began allowing domestic flights to resume after a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

An Airbus spokesman, Stefan Schaffrath, said the company was aware of the crash but had no details.

Indian television channels showed large crowds packed into the neighborhood near the crash site, with people rushing toward ambulances as black smoke clogged the sky. One man carried a boy in his arms as he ran past journalists and emergency workers.

The crash occurred as Muslims around the world were about to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a holiday dedicated to the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. News channels said many of the passengers had been traveling home to be with family for the holiday.

Syed Shibli Faraz, the Pakistani information minister, said the crash was “a very tragic incident just before Eid.” Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “shocked and saddened.”

Pakistan has a troubled recent history of air disasters. The deadliest was in 2010, when an Airbus flying from Karachi crashed into hills, killing all 152 on board. In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed, killing 48 people, including a famous former pop singer.

By late afternoon on Friday, emergency workers had poured into the neighborhood — called Model Colony — near the crash site. Many parked cars had been destroyed.

Amjad Shah, who lives in the neighborhood, said he woke when he heard a sound “like a bomb exploding.” He said that security officers were trying to move people away from the crash site, but were “facing huge difficulties” because of the crowds and the narrow streets.

Jeffrey Gettleman contributed reporting from New Delhi, and Stanley Reed from London.

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