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Plane crashes in Pakistan with 100 on board, many feared dead

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KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane with around 100 passengers and crew crashed on Friday in a residential area of the city of Karachi, with many feared dead, officials said.

A plume of smoke is seen after the crash of a PIA aircraft in Karachi, Pakistan May 22, 2020. TWITTER/SHAHABNAFEES via REUTERS

The state carrier said flight PK 8303 had crashed with 99 passengers and eight crew members on board, though civil aviation officials said the total for both may be 99.

TV footage showed smoke billowing from the scene, some rooves caved in and debris scattered in streets, as ambulances rushed through chaotic crowds of people.

The jet, which tracking website flightradar24.com identified as a 15-year-old Airbus A320, was flying from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi in the south just as Pakistan was resuming domestic flights in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The last we heard from the pilot was that he has some technical problem,” PIA spokesman Abdullah H. Khan said in a video statement.

“He was told from the final approach that both the runways were ready where he can land, but the pilot decided that he wanted to do (a) go-round … It is a very tragic incident.”

A senior civil aviation official told Reuters it appeared the plane was unable to open its wheels due to a technical fault prior to landing, but it was to early to determine the cause.#

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Pakistan’s army and rescue services rushed to the site, which appeared to be a densely populated area.

Several cars were on fire, footage showed.

“The areoplane first hit a mobile tower and crashed over houses,” witness Shakeel Ahmed told Reuters near the crash, just a few kilometres short of the airport.

In Pakistan’s most recent deadly crash, 47 people died when a PIA jet smashed into a mountainside in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in 2016. The country’s worst plane disaster came in 2010 when an AirBlue flight crashed killing 152 people near Islamabad.

“Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash. Am in touch with PIA CEO Arshad Malik, who has left for Karachi & with the rescue & relief teams on ground as this is the priority right now,” tweeted Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased.”

Additional reporting by Asif Shahzad and Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne