Huge death toll feared in airliner crash

Huge death toll feared in airliner crash

Scores of passengers were feared dead after an airliner carrying 152 people crashed in Pakistan today.

The Airblue Airbus flew into the hills surrounding the capital Islamabad in poor weather.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said five people survived but rescue workers at the scene doubted anyone could have escaped.

“Now we are pretty sure that there is not a single survivor,” Hanif Khattak, the director general of Pakistan’s Civil Defence, said.

“I’m seeing only body parts,” Dawar Adnan, a rescue worker with the Pakistan Red Crescent, said.

“This is a very horrible scene. We have scanned almost all the area, but there is no chance of any more survivors.”

The search effort was hampered by mud and smouldering wreckage that rescuers were having trouble extinguishing.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. The plane left Karachi at 7.45am for a two-hour scheduled flight to Islamabad.

Airblue is a private service based in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and the flight was believed to be carrying mostly Pakistanis.

Rescuers scouring the heavily forested hills found 50 bodies in the wreckage by mid-morning.

“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,” said a spokesman.

At the Islamabad airport, hundreds of friends and relatives of those on board the flight crowded ticket counters desperately seeking information. A large cluster of people also surrounded a passenger list posted near the Airblue counter.

The Pakistan Airline Pilot Association said the plane appeared to have strayed off course, possibly because of the poor weather.

An airline spokesman said an investigation would be launched, but for now the focus was to find survivors. The plane was no more than eight-years old, and it had no known technical issues and the pilots did not make any emergency calls .

The last major plane crash in Pakistan was in July 2006 when a Fokker F-27 twin-engine aircraft operated by Pakistan International Airlines slammed into a field on the outskirts of the central city of Multan, killing all 45 on board.

Airblue flies within Pakistan as well as internationally to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the United Kingdom.

The Airbus 320 family of medium-range jets, which includes the 321 model that crashed today, is one of the most popular in the world, with about 4,000 jets delivered since 1988.

Twenty-one of the aircraft have been lost in accidents. The deadliest was in 2007 in Sao Paolo by Brazil’s TAM airline, in which all 187 people on board perished, along with 12 others on the ground.

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