Dozens feared dead after plane crashes into residential area of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city

Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote in a tweet he was "shocked and saddened" by the crash.

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By Patrick Smith and Mushtaq Yusufzai

A passenger plane carrying dozens of people crashed into a residential area of Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, early Friday, minutes before it was due to land.

The Pakistan International Airlines A-320 plane was flying from Lahore to Karachi's Jinnah International Airport, according to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA). After initially reporting that it was carrying 99 passengers and eight crew, a later statement said that 91 passengers and seven crew were aboard.

The pilot of Flight 8303 was heard transmitting a mayday to the tower shortly before it crashed in the middle class, congested residential area known as Model Colony.

Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar said that dead bodies and injured people were being recovered from nearby houses damaged in the crash.

"At least three houses have been demolished, while around 10 to 12 are reportedly damaged," he said.

As darkness settled over the crash site, flood lights illuminated the wreckage, where crews were still recovering bodies. A mobile morgue was also set up.

Zafar Masud, the chief executive of the Bank of Punjab, was aboard the flight when it came down but survived with "multiple injuries and fractures," a spokesperson for the bank said.

The government of Sindh, the regional province that includes Karachi, declared a state of emergency in all major hospitals in the city due to the plane crash.

Volunteers look for survivors after a plane crashed in a residential area of Karachi, Pakistan, on May 22, 2020.Fareed Khan / AP

By late Friday local time, the province's health ministry confirmed the deaths of 76 people and said that two people had survived.

The remains of two passengers have been identified by their DNA and returned to their family, Meeran Yousaf, Sindh provincial Health Department spokeswoman told The Associated Press. At least three people on the ground were injured.

Unverified footage circulating on social media appeared to show the jet flying low over a residential area with flames shooting from one of its engines. Other videos showed black plumes of smoke rising from a row of houses.

Flight-tracking service Flightradar24 said that the 15-year-old aircraft attempted to land at 9.34 a.m., but the landing was aborted at 275 feet and it climbed back to 3,175 feet. The plane's signal was lost at 9.40 a.m. while flying at 525 feet.

Air Marshal Arshad Malik, the CEO of Pakistan International Airlines, told a news conference that the flight's captain, Sajjad Gull, had "extensive flight experience." He added that the plane was 15-years old and Win good condition."

The flight had undergone a maintenance check on March 21 and had completed eight flights since then, he said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote in a tweet he was "shocked and saddened" by the crash.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also tweeted that he was "deeply grieved over devastating plane crash in res area flying to Khi & mins away from landing with many making way home for Eid."

He added: Terrible tragedy, my prayers with all families."

A Pakistani army spokesperson said specialist rescue teams had been flown in from the northern city of Rawalpindi. They added that military ambulances were also aiding the rescue operation.

Domestic flights have only recently restarted after being grounded in Pakistan due to the coronavirus pandemic. International flights are not due to restart until May 31.

Patrick Smith reported from London and Mushtaq Yusufzai from Peshawar.