A commercial airplane carrying 130 people crashed in Rawalpindi just before it was to land at an airport in Islamabad yesterday, according to Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, which cited poor weather as a possible factor. The Bhoja Air Boeing 737 was on its first flight from Karachi to Islamabad, said authority spokesman Pervaz George, who added that weather conditions in the capital were cloudy. There were no survivors.
The crash occurred near the Chaklala airbase, which the Pakistani air force uses, and is adjacent to the Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad. According to sources in Civil Aviation Authority, the flight was given clearance to land but it lost contact with the control tower at 6.40 pm local time.
Rescuers say the plane’s wreck was ablaze when they arrived at the site with mangled dead bodies, severed body parts, burnt luggage, and small parts of the fuselage strewn all over the place in roughly one square km area. Saifur Rehman, an official from the police rescue team said the plane came down in Hussain Abad village, about three kilometers from the main Islamabad highway.
“Fire erupted after the crash. The wreckage is on fire, the plane is completely destroyed. We have come with teams of firefighters and searchlights and more rescuers are coming,” Rehman told Geo television. An expert said that it appeared as if the aircraft was struck by a lightning bolt as the electrical activity in the thunderclouds above was in full swing, which may have caused the crash.
Residents said they had seen a ball of fire in the sky when the plane crashed. Parts of the plane smashed into electricity poles, blanketing the area in darkness, they added.
Pak air disasters
>> The worst aviation tragedy on Pakistani soil came in July 2010 when an Airbus 321 passenger jet operated by the private airline Airblue crashed into hills overlooking Islamabad while coming in to land after a flight from Karachi. All 152 people on board were killed in the accident, which occurred amid heavy rain and poor visibility.
>> The deadliest civilian plane crash involving a Pakistani jet came in 1992 when a PIA Airbus A300 crashed into a cloud-covered hillside on its approach to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, killing 167 people.