Ninety-seven people were killed and two survived when a passenger plane crashed into homes in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi, health officials said Saturday.
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane had made multiple approaches to land at the city’s airport when it came down in a residential area, damaging buildings and sparking a rescue operation that lasted into the night.
All passengers and crew had been accounted for and the bodies of those killed had been recovered from the crash site, the Sindh Health Ministry said, adding that 19 had been identified.
A local hospital earlier reported it had received the bodies of people killed on the ground.
The site remained cordoned off on Saturday morning.
The crash sent plumes of smoke into the air as rescue workers and residents searched the debris for people and as firefighters tried to extinguish the flames.
PIA said the plane lost contact with air traffic control just after 2.30pm (0930 GMT) travelling from Lahore to Karachi.
The disaster comes as Pakistanis prepare to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, with many travelling back to their homes in cities and villages.
Pakistan had resumed domestic flights earlier this week ahead of Eid-al Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Pakistan has been in a countrywide lockdown since mid-March because of the coronavirus, and the airline has been using social distancing guidelines on its flights by leaving every other seat vacant.
Southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, is the epicenter of the virus infections in Pakistan. The province has nearly 20,000 of the country’s more than 50,000 cases.
A transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, indicated he had failed to land and was circling to make another attempt.
“We are proceeding direct, sir — we have lost engine,” a pilot said.
“Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller said, offering a runway.
“Sir, mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” the pilot said before the transmission ended.
In one of the radio communications, at least one exchange from the flight sounded like a warning alarm was sounding in the cockpit.
A resident, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the jet circle at least three times, appearing to try to land before it crashed.