ISLAMABAD: Rescue workers have recovered the dead bodies of at least 45 people from the wreckage of an Airblue passenger plane which crashed in the Margalla Hills in Islamabad on Wednesday, an official said.
?So far, 45 to 50 bodies have been collected?we have not found any survivors,? Ramzan Sajid, a spokesman for Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority (CDA) told Reuters.
For information regarding passengers who were on board the plane, people can contact the Crisis Management Cell at 051-9211223-4.
At least 157 people were on board the ABQ-202, a civil aviation official said.
The 157 included 151 passengers and six crew members, an official said. To view the passenger list, click here.
Rescue workers arrived at the scene and managed to pull out four injured passengers from under the rubble. Meanwhile, the plane?s black box was also recovered, the Civil Aviation Authority said.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said five injured people were recovered from the site and were rushed to a hospital for treatment.
Earlier, Imtiaz Inayat, a senior Islamabad municipal official, told a private television channel that up to five bodies had been recovered from the site of the crash.
?Several bodies are lying in the area. Four or five bodies have been taken,? Inayat said.
Separately, Imtiaz Elahi, chairman of the Capital Development Authority, said: We have sent fire engines to the site, so far five dead bodies have been recovered.
The total number of survivors was not immediately known, another local administration official said.
?Rescue teams have reached the area. They are fully equipped. They are scanning the entire area. Those wounded or survivors are being provided assistance and arrangements have been made to take them to hospitals.
?We are trying to get details about the passengers. It’s a big tragedy. It’s really a big tragedy,? he said.
Mubarik Shah, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, said: We are gathering information. We have no more details.
However, a rescue team that accessed the wreckage of the crashed saw no sign of survivors, a rescue official said.
?I along with four other police and rescue officials reached the crash site. The debris of the plane was scattered there in raging fire. The plane had struck a ridge which fell on the wreckage,? official Arshad Javed said.
?All we could see were charred hands or feet. I collected two heads, two legs and two hands in a bag.”
The plane was flying from Karachi to Islamabad and the exact cause of the crash was not immediately clear.
The aircraft had lost contact with the control tower during the crash which occurred amid thick fog and heavy rainfall in Islamabad.
Guards with the forestry service said they had found some wreckage and seen some bodies, police official Mohammad Saeed said. The army said it was sending special troops to the area to help out along with helicopters.
At the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, hundreds of friends and relatives of those on board the flight swarmed ticket counters desperately seeking information. 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 Nawabul Hasan, a prayer leader in a town near Islamabad, was on the flight.
One Saqlain Altaf told a private television 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 he heard the crash.
Thick clouds of smoke were rising from the Margalla Hills.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered authorities to control the fire immediately and rescue passengers.
The government declared a day of national mourning and called off a cabinet meeting that was scheduled for today.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the cabinet ?expressed grief and sorrow over the tragic incident? and offered prayers for passengers who were killed, Gilani’s office said in a statement.
Raheel Ahmed, a spokesman for Airblue, 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 US-based Aviation Safety Network.
The airliner began operations in 2004 with a fleet of Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, the company said on its website.
The plane that crashed on Wednesday was also built by Airbus, the European planemaker said.
?We regret to confirm there has been an accident with an Airbus aircraft and we will provide more information when we have more confirmed data available,? Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said.
According to the latest available data published by Airbus, Airblue operates six aircraft from its A320 family of short-haul and medium-haul aircraft seating up to 185 passengers.
Forty-five people were killed when a passenger plane belonging to Pakistan International Airlines crashed near Multan in 2006