ABC News | AFP | 28/07/2010 | 07:02pm IST
Pakistani officials say there are no survivors from a passenger plane that crashed with up to 152 people on board near the capital, Islamabad. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has expressed his sorrow over the crash and declared a day of national mourning. The Airbus 321 broke up and caught fire after crashing into Margalla Hills. Civil aviation officials say the pilot of the Airblue flight from Karachi lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly before the accident. Eyewitnesses say the plane was flying at low altitude during bad weather. Rescue workers have recovered the severely burnt bodies of dozens of passengers from the wreckage. Anxious relatives have gathered at the scene, desperate for news of missing family members.
There are conflicting reports over the number of people on the doomed plane. The civil aviation authority said there were 152 while police said there were 149. The airline put the number of passengers and crew at 150. The civil aviation authority says all possible causes will be investigated, including terrorism and bad weather, however officials have given no indication an attack is to blame. Airbus said the single-aisle plane was a relatively young 10 years old and the European company offered its full assistance to Pakistani investigators. The US embassy has confirmed two Americans are among the dead.
Airblue is one of Pakistan’s most respected airlines. It has been operating only since 2004, using new Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft on domestic routes and international services to Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Manchester. Pakistan enjoys a relatively good air safety record. The most recent fatal commercial crash was a Pakistan International Airlines Fokker F27 that came down in July 2006, killing 45 people on take-off from the central city of Multan, bound for Lahore. The deadliest civilian plane crash involving a Pakistani jet was a PIA Airbus A300 that crashed into a cloud-covered hillside on its approach to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, killing 167 people in September 1992.