(Update 2: corrects onboard passenger figure, adds details throughout)
Islamabad, May 22 (efe-epa).- A Pakistan passenger plane carrying 99 people crashed on Friday in a residential area close to the airport in the port city of Karachi on Friday just before landing, officials said. At least three passengers have survived the crash.
The exact number of casualties was difficult to ascertain after the crash as the plane went down into the crowded neighborhood Model Colony area in Pakistan’s biggest city and main financial hub..
“A total of 35 bodies have been recovered so far,” Meeran Yusuf, a spokesperson for the health department of the Sindh province, told EFE.
She said the rescuers found at least three passengers alive from the plane debris and they were in a stable condition at a hospital.
The rescuers found at least eight more injured who are residents of the area near the crash site, and four of them have suffered 60 percent burn injuries.
The number of dead could run into dozens as reports indicate that the plane touched and skidded off several rooftops of the houses in the residential area before it crashed around 2.30 PM.
The Airbus A320 took off from the eastern city of Lahore and was about to land at Karachi’s Jinnah international airport when it went down.
Online videos and pictures purportedly from the crash site showed plumes of smoke rising from what looked like a cluster of closely packed residential houses amid shrieks and sobs of wailing men and women.
“The plane crashed close to the Karachi airport. It was just one minute away from the airport and fell on a residential area,” Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Abdul Sattar told EFE. “An emergency response protocol has been activated.”
Sattar initially told EFE that the plane was carrying 99 passengers and eight crew members. However, he later revised the figure to 99, including 91 passengers.
“I cannot say (anything) about the damages at the moment. We cannot say (about) the reason also as it is too early (to ascertain that),” Sattar said.
Air Vice Marshal Arshad Malik, the chief executive officer of the PIA, said the pilot of the plane had informed the control tower that there were some technical difficulties in landing the plane.
He said the airline was investigating to find out “what exactly happened”.
The crash came as Pakistanis prepare to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, a Muslim festival that marks the end of the month of fasting, over the weekend.
Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an immediate inquiry into the crash as he tweeted “prayers and condolences” for the families of the deceased.
“Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash. (I) am in touch with PIA CEO Arshad Malik, who has left for Karachi & with the rescue & relief teams on (the) ground, as this is the priority right now.”
The Karachi administration put the city’s main hospitals on alert for emergency medical aid to survivors.
Ambulances and rescue officials arrived at the site to help residents while the Pakistan Army flew in its helicopters for rescue efforts.
The army’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said in a tweet that its Quick Reaction Force and Sindh Pakistan Rangers had arrived at the site for relief and rescue efforts alongside civil administration.