Thursday 23 November 2017

No survivors as Pakistan jet crashes in thick fog

Rob Crilly in Islamabad

A PAKISTANI passenger jet crashed in bad weather killing all 152 people on board in one of the worst air accidents ever in that country.

The Airblue flight yesterday morning from Karachi was preparing to land when it went down in the fog-shrouded Margalla Hills to the north of Islamabad, the capital.

Rescue workers struggled to reach the crash site, trekking through forests made boggy by days of monsoon rain.

Officials said air-traffic control had diverted the plane on its final approach because of rain and thick cloud -- taking it outside the normal route for aircraft flying from Karachi.

A plume of smoke rising into the low cloud from the hills could be seen from Islamabad.

Onlookers scrambled past police cordons to climb into the hills, where they helped rescuers, digging among the wreckage with their bare hands.

Pakistan is in the grip of monsoon season, and yesterday brought heavy rain and low cloud to the Himalayan foothills around Islamabad.

Pilots say the craggy hills and unpredictable wind patterns make landing awkward even in good weather. An earlier flight had been diverted to Lahore.

Witnesses said the Airbus A321, carrying 146 passengers -- including two Americans -- and six crew, looked in difficulty as it approached the city.

"I wondered why the plane wasn't flying higher as it was flying towards the hill," said Anjum Rahman, who saw the plane from her window. "Then, within three or four minutes, I heard a loud explosion."

Relatives of the missing clustered around ambulances as they began arriving at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in the early afternoon.

But hope faded as it became clear they were carrying charred bodies rather than survivors.

Huma Shahid said she was waiting for news of a cousin who was returning from Karachi. "We came because we heard there were survivors -- first five, then 45," she said. "But, so far, nothing."

It was not until late afternoon that rescuers said no one had survived.

Rehman Malik, the interior minister, said: "It's a tragic accident. There will be a full investigation and it's too early to say what caused the crash, but the weather was not good." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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