Pakistani jet crashes during thunderstorm, 127 feared dead

By IndepthAfrica
In World News
Apr 20th, 2012
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Rescue workers carry the body of a victim retrieved from the wreckage of a Boeing 737 airliner which crashed in Islamabad April 20, 2012. The Pakistani airliner with 127 people on board crashed in bad weather as it came in to land in Islamabad on Friday, scattering wreckage and leaving no sign of survivors. The Boeing 737, operated by local airline Bhoja Air, was flying to the capital from Pakistan's biggest city and business hub Karachi. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed (PAKISTAN - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT)

Emergency workers with flashlights searched the smouldering wreckage of a passenger jet carrying 127 people that crashed into a muddy wheat field Friday while trying to land in a violent thunderstorm at Islamabad’s main airport.

The government said there appeared to be no survivors in the crash of the Boeing 737-200 near Benazir Bhutto International Airport — the second major air disaster in the Pakistani capital in less than two years.

Sobbing relatives of those aboard the Bhoja Air flight from Karachi to Islamabad rushed to airports in both cities for news of their loved ones.

One rescue official asked residents to bring sheets to cover the remains of the dead, and smashed seats and other wreckage was spread over a wide area near the airport, along with clothing and jewelry belonging to passengers.

Bhoja Air, a domestic carrier that has just four planes, only resumed operations last month after suspending them in 2001 due to financial difficulties.

Bhoja administrative director Javed Ishaq told reporters and relatives of those on board that the jet was in good condition and was brought down by “heavy winds.”

“The aircraft was in good shape. This came from God,” said Ishaq, speaking at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. As he spoke, relatives of those aboard who had come to the airport jeered him and demanded to be flown to Islamabad to collect the bodies of their loved ones.

The plane had been given clearance to land, said an air traffic controller who did not give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media. A violent thunderstorm was lashing Islamabad at the time of the crash, about 6:40 p.m. local time.

“It was really bad weather for a flight,” said navy Capt. Arshad Mahmood, who lives near the crash site. “The pilot was forced to move down to avoid clouds that were generating the lightning and thunder.”

Islamabad police chief Bani Yameen said nobody on the ground was reported killed, “but apparently all on board perished.” Civil aviation officials also said survivors were highly unlikely, according to Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar.

“My brother’s wife was on board this flight,” said Naveed Khan. “We pray for the departed souls. What else can we do now?”

TV footage showed wreckage that included parts of what looked like an engine and a wing against the wall of a small building. Rescuers worked in the dark, with many using flashlights as they combed the area. Fleets of ambulances arrived later, their lights flashing in the gloom.

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