A passenger jet carrying 159 people crashed into the hills surrounding Pakistan’s capital (Islamabad) amid rain and caught fire Wednesday, officials said. At least 25 people were killed and five survived with injuries, but many more were feared dead in the smoking wreck.
The cause of the Airblue crash was not immediately clear, said Pervez George, a civil aviation official. He said the plane had left the southern city of Karachi at 7:45 a.m. for a two-hour scheduled flight to Islamabad and was trying to land during difficult, cloudy weather. Airblue is a private service based in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.
“The plane was about to land at the Islamabad airport when it lost contact with the control tower, and later we learned that the plane had crashed,” George said, adding that the model of the plane was Airbus 321 and the flight number was ED202.
Rescue workers have recovered at least 25 bodies from the wreckage, said Ramzan Sajid, spokesman for the Capital Development Authority, which reports to the Interior Ministry and has a group that deals with emergencies.
Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik said at least five wounded passengers were rescued.
Local TV footage showed twisted metal wreckage hanging from trees and scattered across the ground on a bed of broken branches. People were climbing the heavily forested hills to search for the dead and wounded, while a helicopter hovered above. Fire was visible and smoke rose from the scene. The army said it was sending special troops to aid the search.
At the Islamabad airport, hundreds of friends and relatives of those on board the flight swarmed ticket counters desperately seeking information. A large cluster of people also surrounded the list of passengers on the flight, which was posted near the Airblue ticket counter.
“We don’t know who survived, who died, who is injured,” said Zulfikar Ghazi, who was waiting to receive four relatives. “We are in shock, but no one is here to console us, to help us. How are we going to receive their bodies? If they are injured, where are they?”