ISLAMABAD – At least two people survived the crash of a Pakistan International Airlines plane near the Karachi airport Friday, according to Pakistani officials. The Airbus A320, which had 99 people aboard, struck a nearby residential neighborhood after experiencing a mechanical failure, an airline official said.
In the moments before the crash, the flight’s captain radioed to report difficulties with the landing gear. The pilot then attempted an emergency landing, but the maneuver damaged a fuel tank and sent the plane careening into the nearby neighborhood, according to the airline official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Video from the scene shows a crowd of men carrying a survivor through a narrow alley strewn with debris. Behind them what appears to be part of the aircraft’s fuselage is wedged between a house and a car, billowing smoke.
Aviation officials had previously said 107 people were on board the flight from Lahore to Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport.
There was still no official word late Friday on the cause of the crash. The Pakistani army mounted a search and rescue effort, and helicopters were dispatched to the crash site to transport survivors.
“So far I can confirm that 2 passengers on board the PIA plane have miraculously survived the crash,” Murtaza Wahab, a spokesman for Sindh province, where Karachi is located, said in a tweet. He said both were in stable condition.
A second local official, Syed Nasir Shah, also told Pakistani state television that at least two people had survived.
“As of now, rescue efforts are ongoing. However an inquiry has been launched,” said Abdul Sattat Khokhar, a senior civil aviation official who serves as the spokesman for the crash response.
A prominent Pakistani journalist and the president of one of the country’s largest banks were aboard the flight, and their families reported that they survived the crash, according to local media reports.
Local media also reported that more than two dozen residents of Model Colony, the poor, congested residential area where the plane crashed, were being treated for injuries at hospitals.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement shortly after the first reports of the crash emerged. He expressed his deep sorrow over the lives lost and said he had directed all relevant departments to extend relief, rescue efforts and medical aid to the injured. He also ordered an immediate investigation.
Khan tweeted that the airline’s CEO was headed to Karachi to oversee rescue and relief efforts.
The crash occurred just days after domestic flights resumed in Pakistan as coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions were being lifted. The next few days are expected to be a busy travel time in Pakistan, as the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan falls this weekend and is traditionally celebrated by visiting relatives.
Pakistan International Airlines has long had a poor safety record. In 2016, a PIA domestic flight traveling from Chitral to Islamabad crashed, killing all 48 passengers and crew on board. And last year, a PIA flight landing at a small airport in the country’s north crashed after skidding off the runway. All passengers survived, but the plane was severely damaged.
Witnesses of Friday’s disaster said the airliner appeared to attempt to land two or three times before it crashed in Model Colony, the Associated Press reported.
Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar said at least five or six houses were destroyed in the crash, the AP said.