Plane crash in Pakistani capital kills 152

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The aircraft involved, photographed a month before the crash
Image: Richard Vandervord.

An Airblue-owned passenger plane, originating from Karachi, Pakistan, has crashed on approach to Islamabad International Airport in the Pakistani capital earlier today. There were 146 passengers and 6 crew members on board.

Initial reports were unclear as to the death toll, with some indicating that everyone on board, including crew, have died, and others saying at least five survivors had been taken to the hospital. Later reports, however, confirmed that all aboard had died.

The people killed in the crash include six members of the Youth Parliament of Pakistan, and among the six foreigners on board were two Americans. The US president, Barack Obama, has stated that “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those touched by this horrible accident.”

"There is nothing left, just piles and bundles of flesh. There are just some belongings, like two or three traveling bags, some checkbooks, and I saw a picture of a young boy. Otherwise everything is burned," according to rescue worker Murtaza Khan.

Officials blame the crash on heavy fog and bad weather. Airblue spokesman Raheel Ahmed said that "[a]pparently the cause of the crash is bad weather, but we leave that to the investigators. We are now preoccupied with rescue work and striving to take care of the relatives of the passengers who were on board."

Rescuers were reportedly finding it difficult to reach the area of the crash, which is on a hill inaccessible by roads. An Islamabad city official, Aamir Ali Ahmed, said that "[i]t's a very difficult operation because of the rain. Most of the bodies are charred. We're sending body-bags via helicopters."

Witnesses said that the plane had been flying low over Islamabad before crashing; a local TV reporter, Anjum Rahman, said that "I wondered why the plane wasn't flying higher as it was flying towards the hill. Then within three or four minutes I heard a loud explosion."

This crash is the deadliest crash involving a Pakistani passenger jet since 1992, when 167 people on board an Airbus A300 were killed as it crashed into a hillside on its approach to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. The crash is also the deadliest crash in Pakistan to date. An earlier crash in 2006 killed 45.

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