No survivor as plane crashes in Pakistan

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Up to 130 people are feared dead after a Boeing 737 crashed while trying to land in bad weather near the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Friday, officials said.

The Bhoja airline flight from Karachi came down outside Islamabad’s international airport, police official Fazle Akbar said, adding that emergency teams have been sent to the site.

“There is no chance of any survivors. It will be only a miracle. The plane is totally destroyed,” he told AFP from the crash site.

There were conflicting reports about how many people were on board the plane.

A senior defence ministry official said initial reports suggested there were 126 people on board, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said it was carrying 121 passengers and nine crew, while the chief of Islamabad police Bani Amin told AFP from the crash site that 127 were on board.

Asked if there were any survivors, the defence ministry official said: “So far there is no good news.”

Saifur Rehman, an official from the police rescue team said the plane came down in Hussain Abad village, about three kilometres (two miles) from the main Islamabad highway.

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“Fire erupted after the crash. The wreckage is on fire, the plane is completely destroyed. We have come with teams of firefighters and searchlights and more rescuers are coming,” Rehman told Geo television.

An airport source said the plane had been due to land at Islamabad airport at 6:50 pm (1350 GMT) but lost contact with the control tower at 6:40 pm and crashed shortly afterwards before reaching the runway.

Bhoja Air relaunched domestic operations with a fleet of five 737s in March, according to newspaper reports, when the airline was planning to start flights connecting Karachi, Sukkur, Multan, Lahore and Islamabad.

Bhoja had been grounded in 2000 by the Civil Aviation Authorities amid financial difficulties, the reports said.

The worst aviation tragedy on Pakistani soil came in July 2010 when an Airbus 321 passenger jet operated by the private airline Airblue crashed into hills overlooking Islamabad while coming in to land after a flight from Karachi.

All 152 people on board were killed in the accident, which occurred amid heavy rain and poor visibility.

The deadliest civilian plane crash involving a Pakistani jet came in 1992 when a PIA Airbus A300 crashed into a cloud-covered hillside on its approach to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, killing 167 people.