A passenger plane with 99 people on board crashed near the Karachi airport, Pakistani Civil Aviation said. It is unclear whether there were any survivors on the Pakistan International Airlines flight, officials said.
The Airbus A320 plane was carrying 91 passengers and eight crew, according to a statement from Lahore airport. Civil Aviation officials previously said 107 people were on board.
Aviation officials said they have no information regarding survivors, but local media reported that some of the people believed to have been on board have contacted their families. Several people in the residential area where the plane crashed also appeared to have been injured.
The Pakistani army dispatched search and rescue teams, including helicopters to the scene.
Images and video uploaded to social media showed thick plumes of black smoke rising from what appeared to be the crash site in a residential area.
The Airbus was traveling from Lahore to Karachi and crashed as it began to land at the Karachi airport, according to a civil aviation statement.
A senior Civil Aviation official, Abdul Sattat Khokhar, who is the spokesman for the crash response, said there is no official word yet on survivors. He also said it was too early to comment on the cause of the crash.
“As of now, rescue efforts are ongoing. However an inquiry has been launched,” he said.
The Pakistani army is leading search and rescue operations. Teams, including helicopters to transport the wounded were dispatched to the crash site.
A prominent Pakistani journalist and the President of one of the country’s largest banks were aboard the flight, and their families reported that they survived the crash, according to local media reports.
Local media also reported that more than two dozen residents of the neighborhood where the plane crashed were being treated for injuries at local hospitals.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement shortly after reports of the crash began to emerge. He said he expressed his deep sorrow and grief over the lives lost and directed all relevant departments to extend relief, rescue efforts and medical aid to injured. He ordered an immediate investigation into the crash.
Khan also tweeted that the airline’s CEO was headed to Karachi to oversee rescue and relief efforts.
The crash occurred just days after domestic flights resumed in Pakistan as Corona virus-related lock down restrictions were being lifted. The next few days are expected to be a busy travel time in Pakistan, as the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan is set to fall this weekend and is traditionally celebrated by visiting relatives.
Pakistan International Airlines, the national carrier known as PIA, has long had a poor safety record. In 2016, a PIA domestic flight traveling from Chitral to Islamabad crashed, killing all 48 passengers and crew on board. And last year, a PIA flight landing at a small airport in the country’s north crashed after skidding off the runway. All passengers survived, but the plane was heavily damaged.
Witnesses said the airliner appeared to attempt to land two or three times before crashing in a residential area near Jinnah International Airport, the Associated Press reported. Known as Model Colony, the residential area on the edge of the airport is a poor, heavily congested area.
A resident, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the aircraft circle at least three times, appearing to try to land before it crashed into several houses, according to the Associated Press.
The area was cordoned off by police and military personnel, and firefighters sprayed water on smoldering wreckage.
Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar said at least five or six houses were destroyed in the crash, the Associated Press said, but it was not immediately clear whether residents were among the casualties.
The Civil Aviation Authority said the pilot reported an emergency shortly before the crash, saying he had lost an engine.