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Airbus jet goes down in Pakistan

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Another Airbus goes down in a storm, in the worse crash in the country's history.


Courtesy NBC/MSNBC


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — All 152 people aboard a Pakistani jet died when the passenger plane crashed into hills as it tried to land on Wednesday, an official told NBC News.

The head of Pakistan's civil defense body told NBC News that no one travelling aboard the Airblue flight had survived.


Earlier reports suggested that up to five survivors had been pulled from the wreckage after the plane smashed into heavily wooded hillside during a rainstorm. There was no explanation for the discrepancy, but reports often differ in the immediate aftermath of such events.

"Dead bodies are lying all around," Bin Yameen, a senior Islamabad police official told Reuters.

Rescuers said they had to dig through the debris with their bare hands, with flames and thick smoke hampering their work. There are no roads near the crash site, limiting access to rescue workers.


NBC News reported that muddy paths through the thickly wooded and foggy area were making it difficult for doctors and paramedics to reach the site by foot.

The cause of the crash of flight ED202 was not immediately clear, said Pervez George, a civil aviation official. He said the Airbus 321 was flying from Karachi to Islamabad.


Citing a U.S. embassy official, Reuters reported that two Americans were among the victims.

A reporter for Pakistani TV channel Geo TV said that the pilot was trying to land at Islamabad on schedule at 9:30 a.m. local time (12:30 a.m. ET), but was told to wait because the airport was busy.

The plane crashed into the rugged Margalla Hills near the Damanekoh resort 13 minutes after losing contact with the airport's control tower.

'The weather is just too bad for flying'

At Islamabad's international airport, passengers in the departure lounge scanned the television screens for news.

"I'm not surprised something like this has happened," Ahmed Fairuz, a passenger awaiting departure, told Reuters. "The weather is just too bad for flying."

There had been heavy monsoon rains in the area for at least a couple of days.


Pakistani news channels showed what appeared to be wreckage of the plane as a helicopter hovered above the heavily forested hills to assess the situation. Fire was visible and smoke was blowing up from the scene. The army said it was sending special troops to the area to help out along with helicopters.


Hundreds of friends and relatives of those on board the flight swarmed ticket counters desperately seeking information at Islamabad's airport. A large cluster of people also surrounded the list of passengers on the flight, which was posted near the Airblue ticket counter.

"Nobody is guiding anyone. People are running from one counter to another," said Arshad Mahmood, whose brother, Maulana Nawab Ulhasan, a prayer leader in a town near Islamabad, was on the flight.

"I'm praying for his survival, but I think there is little hope," Mahmood said.

Arshad Ali said his cousin, Raza Ali, was supposed to be on the flight but missed it in Karachi on his way from Canada.

"We are happy he missed the flight, but things here are in shambles at the airport," Ali added. "For God's sake, take care of the worried people, the relatives of those who were on the unfortunate plane. They have no information and are just running here and there."


Saqlain Altaf told Pakistan's ARY news channel that he was on a family outing in the hills when he saw the plane looking unsteady in the air. "The plane had lost balance, and then we saw it going down," he said, adding that he heard the crash.


Raheel Ahmed, a spokesman for the airline, said an investigation would be launched, but that for now the focus was to find survivors.

The plane was no more than eight years old, and it had no known technical issues, Ahmed said. He added that to his knowledge, the pilots had not sent any emergency signals.

Airblue flies within Pakistan as well as internationally to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the United Kingdom.


The only previous recorded accident for Airblue, a carrier that began flying in 2004, was a tailstrike in May 2008 at Quetta airport by one of the airline's Airbus 321 jets. There were no casualties and damage was minimal, according to the U.S.-based Aviation Safety Network.

The Airbus 320 family of medium-range jets, which includes the 321 model that crashed Wednesday, is one of the most popular in the world, with about 4,000 jets delivered since deliveries began in 1988.

Twenty-one of the aircraft have been lost in accidents since then, according to the Aviation Safety Network's database. The deadliest was a 2007 crash at landing in Sao Paolo by Brazil's TAM airline, in which all 187 people on board perished, along with 12 others on the ground.


The last major plane crash in Pakistan was in July 2006 when a Fokker F-27 twin-engine aircraft operated by Pakistan International Airlines slammed into a wheat field on the outskirts of the central Pakistani city of Multan, killing all 45 people on board.

In August 1989, another PIA Fokker, with 54 people onboard, went down in northern Pakistan on a domestic flight. The plane's wreckage was never found.

In September 1992, a PIA Airbus A300 crashed into a mountain in Nepal, killing all 167 people on board. Investigators found the plane was flying 1,500 feet lower than it reported as it approached the Katmandu airport.



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