Pakistan jet crash kills 152 people

A PASSENGER jet crashed into the hills surrounding Pakistan’s capital Islamabad amid poor weather yesterday, killing all 152 people on board and blazing a path of devastation strewn with bodies and wreckage.

Initial Interior Ministry reports that five people survived the Airblue crash were wrong, said Imtiaz Elahi, chairman of the Capital Development Authority, which deals with emergencies and reports to the ministry.

“The situation at the site of the crash is heartbreaking,” Elahi said. “It is a great tragedy and I confirm it with pain that there are no survivors.”

The dead included two US citizens, said a US embassy spokesman.

Local TV footage showed twisted metal wreckage hanging from trees and scattered across the ground on a bed of broken branches. Fire was visible and smoke rose from the scene as a helicopter hovered above. The army was sending special troops to aid the search.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said the government does not suspect terrorism.

The plane left the southern city of Karachi at 7.45am for a two-hour scheduled flight to Islamabad and was trying to land during cloudy and rainy weather, said Pervez George, a civil aviation official.

Airblue is a private service based in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and yesterday’s flight, an Airbus 321, was believed to be carrying mostly Pakistanis.

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

Raheel Ahmed, a spokesman for the airline, said an investigation would be launched into the cause of the crash. The plane had no known technical issues and the pilots did not send any emergency signals, Ahmed said.

Airbus said it would provide technical assistance for the investigation. The aircraft was initially delivered in 2000, and was leased to Airblue in January 2006. It accumulated about 34,000 flight hours during some 13,500 flights, it said.

Airblue flies in Pakistan and to the UAE, Oman and Britain.


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