152 presumed dead in Pakistani plane crash


ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani passenger plane crashed into the hills that flank Islamabad on Wednesday with 152 people on board, including two Americans, officials and witnesses said. Apparently no one survived.

The private airliner, which had flown from Karachi,
crashed in heavy rain. Thick smoke rose from the crash site in the
hills, which is covered in forest. There were reports of ambulances
taking bodies to the nearest hospital in Islamabad.

There were 146 passengers and six crew members on board, government and airline officials said.

“There are no survivors. We believe all are dead. We are recovering the remains of the dead bodies from the wreckage,” said Imtiaz Elahi, the chairman of Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority, a government organization.

Richard Snelsire, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, said, “There were two Americans on the flight. We have no further information at this time.”

The Airbus A321, flown by Airblue, had been due to land at 9:30 a.m. (12.30 a.m. EDT). Reports suggest that the plane was circling the airport awaiting permission to land, and crashed just before 10 a.m.

Rescue teams found it difficult to reach the site,
which wasn’t near a road and offered no landing site for helicopters.
An army battalion and military helicopters were deployed.

“We have no information on any survivors. Those recovered are dead bodies,” said Amir Ali Ahmed, a senior official in the Islamabad administration. “We do not expect any survivors. The recovery of bodies is going on right now.”

Relatives of the passengers gathered at Islamabad’s airport and at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hospital in Islamabad, seeking information.

The Margalla Hills flank Islamabad to the west. They’re a popular spot for hiking, and a restaurant at the top of one of the hills is a tourist attraction.

Witnesses said the plane appeared to be flying very low over houses in Islamabad. Clouds covered the tops of the hills at the time, said Anjum Rahman, a television reporter and nearby resident.

“I saw it pass over my house and then there was a very loud explosion,” Rahman said.

Airblue is mostly a domestic airline, though this flight was said to have originated in Turkey. After its stop in Karachi, it continued to Islamabad, a two-hour journey. The plane was relatively new, 8 to 10 years old, according to the airline.

Hafiz Khalid Zaheer, a resident who’d scrambled to the crash site, said he saw only dead bodies there.

“People’s heads and body parts are lying around.
You cannot count” the bodies, Zaheer said. “Luggage is also scattered
around the place. Everything is broken.”

Raheel Ahmed, an executive at
Airblue, said, “It is hilly terrain. They (rescuers) have had to walk
to the wreckage. We are also being hampered because of the weather.
Rescue teams have reached the wreckage and they are looking for

Pakistani television channels were airing a printed
official list of the passengers’ names and footage of rescuers picking
through the smoldering wreckage.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the plane had been asked to change the direction of its approach to the airport and had begun to do so when it crashed.


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