The Pakistan International Airline flight from Lahore was carrying nearly 100 people. At least 56 bodies have been recovered as rescue operations continue; at least 2 passengers survived, officials said.

Volunteers look for survivors of a Pakistan International Airlines flight, carrying nearly 100 passengers and crew, that crashed in a residential area of Karachi, Pakistan on May 22, 2020.
Volunteers look for survivors of a Pakistan International Airlines flight, carrying nearly 100 passengers and crew, that crashed in a residential area of Karachi, Pakistan on May 22, 2020. (Fareed Khan / AP)

At least 56 bodies have been recovered after a Pakistan International Airline plane crashed with nearly 100 people on board in the southern city of Karachi on Friday, according to rescue officials, with dozens more feared dead.

Officials said there were at least two survivors from the plane, and it was unknown how many people on the ground were hurt, with at least five houses destroyed.

Seemin Jamali, the head of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, said the hospital had received 37 bodies. Another 19 were at Civil Hospital, a hospital official told Reuters.

Provincial health department media coordinator Meeran Yousaf confirmed to Reuters by phone that there were at least 56 confirmed dead, and 2 survivors.

The 15-year-old Airbus A320 jet with 99 people on board crashed while approaching the airport. 

Faisal Edhi, who heads the charitable Edhi Foundation, which was assisting rescuers, gave a slightly higher figure saying at least 42 dead bodies had been recovered from the area.

"As per our estimates there are around 50 more dead bodies under the debris," he said in a live TV broadcast.

The plane was close to landing when it came down among houses in Karachi, sending plumes of smoke into the air that could be seen from some distance away.

A resident, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the jet circle at least three times, appearing to try to land before it crashed.

Fatalities are expected from the neighbourhood the plane crashed into, Model Town.

Search and rescue operations in the congested residential crash site continued into the night.  

The disaster comes as Pakistanis across the country are preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al Fitr, with many travelling back to their homes in cities and villages.

Commercial flights resumed only days ago, after planes were grounded during a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

People comfort a relative of a victim near the site after a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft crashed in a residential area in Karachi on May 22, 2020.
People comfort a relative of a victim near the site after a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft crashed in a residential area in Karachi on May 22, 2020. (AFP)

Engine failure

"The last we heard from the pilot was that he has some technical problem," PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said.

The pilot sent a Mayday and told controllers the aircraft had lost power from both its engines on its second attempt to land, according to a recording posted on monitoring website liveatc.net.

“We are proceeding direct, sir — we have lost engine,” a pilot said.

“Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller said, offering a runway.

“Sir, Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Mayday Pakistan 8303,” the pilot said before the transmission ended.

In one of the radio communications, at least one exchange from the flight sounded like a warning alarm was going off in the cockpit.

There was no further communication from the aircraft, reported to be an Airbus A320, according to the audio from liveatc.net, a respected source for in-flight recordings.

Sarfraz Ahmed –– a firefighter at the crash site –– told AFP the nose of the Airbus A320 and the fuselage had been heavily damaged by the impact, adding that rescuers had pulled four bodies from the wrecked aircraft, including some who were still wearing seatbelts.

Geo TV broadcaster initially showed crowds near the scene, and ambulances trying to make their way through.

Black smoke billowed and several cars were on fire.

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 airport in the northeastern city of Lahore, where the flight originated, initially said there were 107 people on board. 

The civil aviation authority later said the plane carried 91 passengers and seven crew members. 

Spokesman Abdul Sattar Kokhar said the discrepancy was due to confusion in the chaotic aftermath of the crash.

In Pakistan's most recent deadly crash, 47 people died when a PIA jet smashed into a mountainside in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in 2016. 

The country's worst plane disaster came in 2010 when an AirBlue flight crashed killing 152 people near Islamabad.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies