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No survivors from Pakistan plane crash, official says

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN): A commercial airplane carrying at least 121 people crashed Friday in Rawalpindi just before it was to land at an airport in Islamabad, according to Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, which cited poor weather as a possible factor. No survivors have been found, officials said.

The Bhoja Air Boeing 737-200 was making its first evening flight from Karachi to Islamabad, where the weather was cloudy, officials said. Authorities initially reported that 131 people were on board, but authority spokesman Pervaz George later reduced that number.
The crash occurred near the Pakistani air force’s Chaklala airbase, which is adjacent to the Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad.
Debris and body parts were scattered across the crash site as workers sifted through the wreckage in the heavily populated residential area. At least 110 bodies had been recovered from the scene, a government official said.
The flight data recorder was recovered Friday at the site of the crash, according to CNN affiliate Geo TV, which broadcast video of the device after it was found.The Bhoja airliner was flying from the southern seaport city of Karachi and crashed just before touching down after its 3½-hour flight.
Local authorities say the crash site is located about five aeronautical miles from the airport in Islamabad.
Weather reports indicated that conditions in the area included thunderstorms and limited visibility, according to CNN meteorologist Mari Ramos.
Authorities are investigating what may have caused the crash and the potential for additional casualties at the site of the wreckage. Rawalpindi is considered one of Pakistan’s most populous cities.
Four villages were affected by the crash and debris from the plane has been recovered within a kilometer of the site, Interior Minister A Rehman Malik said in a interview with Pakistani media.
Investigators are “going to be looking at technology,” aviation security consultant Greg Feith said. “What kind of radio equipment, what kind of ground proximity warning system the aircraft was equipped with, weather radar, things like that … since the weather may be a factor in this accident.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday expressed “deep shock and grief over the tragedy,” ordering his country’s Civil Aviation Authority “to gear up all its resources for rescue operation,” state media reported.
A separate inquiry into the incident has been launched by Pakistan’s Safety Investigation Board, and two crisis operation rooms have been set up at airports in both Islamabad and Karachi to provide information to the affected families.
A Boeing spokeswoman, meanwhile, said the American manufacturer “stands ready to provide technical assistance to the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan.”
“The Boeing Company wishes to extend its profound condolences to the families and friends of those lost today in the Bhoja Air accident in Pakistan, as well as wishes for the recovery of those injured,” said Julie O’Donnell.
Responding to allegations that the airliner was not in good condition to fly, Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi told a local television station that the government has initiated “an immediate investigation.”
“Whether it was 10, 8 years old, or not airworthy is something that we can’t confirm yet,” Sethi said.
But Bhoja Air station manager Zahid Bangish told a Pakistani television station later Friday that the “aircraft was new, not the old one and unairworthy.”
The crash is reminiscent of one in 2010,when 152 people were killed as a Pakistani passenger plane crashed on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. That plane was also was coming from Karachi when it crashed into a hillside while trying to land, officials said at the time.
Four years earlier, another airliner crashed in central Pakistan, leaving 45 dead.
The first known commercial passenger airplane crash occurred in Pakistan in 1953 when a Canadian Pacific DH-106 Comet crashed shortly after takeoff from Karachi. That crash killed 11 people on board.

Published Date: Friday, April 20th, 2012 | 05:57 AM

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