At least 45 people have been killed as a passenger jet crashed in Pakistan today, government officials said.
The bodies have been recovered from the site of the plane crash in the hills surrounding the capital Islamabad. At least five others have been found alive but wounded.
Ramzan Sajid, the spokesman for the Capital Development Authority, said rescuers are continuing to search the wreckage for additional dead and wounded.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, said Pervez George, a civil aviation official. He said the Airblue Airbus 321, flight number ED202, had left the southern city of Karachi at 7.45am for a two-hour scheduled flight to Islamabad and was trying to land during heavy rain. 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,” Mr George said.
Guards with the forestry service found the plane and Pakistani news channels showed what appeared to be wreckage as a helicopter hovered above the heavily forested hills to assess the situation. Fire was visible and smoke was blowing up from the scene. The army said it was sending special troops to the area to help out along with helicopters.
Saqlain Altaf told Pakistan’s ARY news channel that he was on a family outing in the hills when he saw the plane looking unsteady in the air. “The plane had lost balance, and then we saw it going down,” he said, adding that he heard the crash.
Officials at first thought it was a small plane, but later revised that. Mr George said 146 passengers were on the flight along with six crew.
Raheel Ahmed, a spokesman for the airline, said an investigation would be launched, but that for now the focus was to find survivors. The plane was no more than eight years old, and it had no known technical issues, Mr Ahmed said. He added that to his knowledge, the pilots had not sent any emergency signals.
Airblue flies within Pakistan as well as internationally to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the UK.
The only previous recorded accident for Airblue, a carrier that began flying in 2004, was a tailstrike in May 2008 at Quetta airport by another Airbus 321 jet. There were no casualties and damage was minimal, according to the US-based Aviation Safety Network.
The Airbus 320 family of medium-range jets, which includes the 321 model that crashed Wednesday, is one of the most popular in the world, with about 4,000 jets delivered since deliveries began in 1988.
Twenty-one of the aircraft have been lost in accidents since then, according to the Aviation Safety Network’s database.