Pakistan plane crash: 'No survivors' after flight carrying up to 48 people crashes near Abbottabad

Pakistani pop star turned evangelical cleric Junaid Jamshed was on the plane when it crashed

Samuel Osborne,Simon Calder
Wednesday 07 December 2016 13:18
Pakistan plane crash: 'Survivors unlikely' after flight carrying up to 47 people crashes near Abbottabad

There are no survivors from a crash involving a Pakistani plane carrying 48 people near Abbottabad.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said PK 661 lost contact with the control tower en route to the capital, Islamabad, from the northern region of Chitral.

“No one survived,” said the Civil Aviation Authority spokesman. His comments were confirmed by Danyal Gilani, a spokesman for PIA.

The plane crashed in the Havelian area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 25 miles north of Islamabad.

People watch television coverage of the PIA plane crash, at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Rawalpindi, Pakistan

"All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris is scattered," Taj Muhammad Khan, a government official based in the Havelian region, told Reuters.

Mr Khan, who was at the site of the crash, added that witnesses told him "the aircraft has crashed in a mountainous area, and before it hit the ground it was on fire".

The Pakistani pop star turned evangelical cleric Junaid Jamshed was on the plane when it crashed, according to the passenger manifest.

Mr Jamshed retired from music in 2001 and announced he was devoting his life to Islam.

TV footage showed debris from the plane and a massive fire at the site of the crash. The footage showed local villagers collecting the remains of the passengers and covering the bodies with cloths.

According to Daniyal Gilani, the spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines, the plane had lost touch with the control tower prior to the crash.

He said the plane was carrying 42 passengers, five crew members and a ground engineer.

A local trader at the site of the crash said the fire was still burning nearly two hours after the crash, with rescue officials now on the site.

The military said 40 bodies had been recovered and rescue efforts involved about 500 soldiers, doctors and paramedics. The bodies were shifted to the Ayub Medical Centre in nearby Abbottabad, about 12 miles away.

Irfan Elahi, the government's aviation secretary, told media the plane suffered engine problems, but that it was too early to determine the cause of the accident.

Pervez George, the spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, told The Associated Press that a team of experts would determine the cause after retrieving the plane's black box recorder.

"I don't think there is any chance of finding any survivors," he said.

The plane had originated in Peshawar, where it had departed at 1.50pm local time. It touched down normally at 2.38pm in Chitral to drop passengers, refuel and take on new passengers. The aircraft then took off just after 3.30pm, and was due in Islamabad at 4.40pm.

Four hours after the crash, the flight-information section of the airline’s website was still showing the aircraft as “in flight”.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his "deep grief and sorrow" over the crash.

In a statement, he said "the entire nation is deeply saddened over today's unfortunate crash and shares the grief of the families who lost their dear ones."

Former national cricket captain and founder of the Pakistan Movement for Justice Imran Khan said he was "shocked and saddened" by the crash.

“We are deeply saddened to learn that Junaid Jamshed and his wife were among those who died today in the plane crash in Pakistan," Imran Madden, UK director of Islamic Relief, said.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones at this difficult time. We also remember in our prayers all the other passengers and crew who lost their lives in this disaster.”

Plane crashes are not uncommon in Pakistan and safety standards are often criticised. In recent years, the media has reported on multiple near-misses as planes over-shot runways and engines caught fire.

In 2010, a passenger plane crashed in heavy rain near Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board. Two years later, an plane operated by a private Pakistani company, with 127 people on board, crashed near Islamabad. All on board were killed.

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