A Pakistan International Airlines Airbus jet with 99 people aboard crashed into a crowded residential district of the city of Karachi on Friday afternoon after twice trying to land at the airport, a witness said.
At least 80 people were confirmed to have died, provincial health authorities said, but it was not immediately clear whether they included casualties on the ground.
Two passengers survived, including Zafar Masood, president of the Bank of Punjab, a Sindh provincial government spokesman said. The bank said he had suffered fractures but was “conscious and responding well”.
The other survivor, engineer Muhammad Zubair, told Geo News the pilot came down for one landing, briefly touched down, then took off again.
After around 10 more minutes of flying, the pilot announced to passengers he was going to make a second attempt, then crashed as he approached the runway, Zubair said from his bed in Civil Hospital Karachi.
“All I could see around was smoke and fire,” he added. “I could hear screams from all directions. Kids and adults. All I could see was fire. I couldn’t see any people – just hear their screams.
“I opened my seat belt and saw some light – I went towards the light. I had to jump down about 10 feet to get to safety.”
Smoke billowed from the scene where flight PK 8303 came down at about 2:45 p.m. (0945 GMT). Twisted fuselage lay in the rubble of multi-storey buildings as ambulances rushed through chaotic crowds.
The crash happened on the eve of the Muslim Eid festival, when Pakistanis travel to visit relatives.
“The airplane first hit a mobile tower and crashed over houses,” witness Shakeel Ahmed said near the site, a few kilometers short of the airport.
The Airbus A320 was flying from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi in the south with 91 passengers and eight crew, civil aviation authorities said, just as Pakistan was resuming domestic flights in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Seconds before the crash, the pilot told air traffic controllers he had lost power from both engines, according to a recording posted on liveatc.net, a respected aviation monitoring website.
A senior civil aviation official said the airplane appeared had been unable to lower its undercarriage for the first approach due to a technical fault, but it was too early to determine the cause.
Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash ... Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased.”