Pakistan families mourn air crash victims
ISLAMABAD: Distraught relatives wept Saturday as they collected the remains of loved ones after a Pakistani passenger jet crashed in bad weather near Islamabad, killing all 127 people on board.
The Bhoja Air flight from Karachi came down in fields near a village on the outskirts of capital Islamabad at around 6.40pm on Friday evening (9.30pm in Malaysia) – the city's second major fatal air crash in less than two years.
The airline said the Boeing 737 was carrying 121 passengers, including 11 children, as well as six crew.
Civil aviation official Junaid Khan told AFP: "All 127 people died. No one survived. There was no possibility of any survivor in this crash."
Doctor Waseem Khawaja, who is in charge of Islamabad's main hospital, the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, said bodies had been brought in more than 100 bags.
"There was no survivor, all on board are dead," he told AFP.
The doctor said that despite the fire, most of the bodies were not charred and 73 had been identified already, with 53 handed over to relatives.
Rows of coffins, some sprinkled with rose petals by hospital staff as a gesture of compassion, were lined up in a room with handwritten notes identifying the dead by name, TV images showed.
Police officers and soldiers at the hospital consoled the relatives as many, overwhelmed with emotion, wept uncontrollably on receiving the coffins.
A team of senior civil aviation officials have begun an investigation into the crash, which came less than two years after the worst ever air disaster on Pakistani soil.
In July 2010, an Airbus A321 operated by the private airline Airblue crashed into the hills overlooking Islamabad while coming in to land in heavy rain and poor visibility, killing all 152 people on board.
Boeing offered "profound condolences" to the victims' families and said it would provide technical assistance to the investigation into the Bhoja crash.
Debris was scattered over a two-kilometre radius, said Brigadier Sarfraz Ali, who is heading recovery efforts.
Torn fragments of the fuselage, including a large section bearing the Bhoja Air logo, littered the fields around the village of Hussain Abad.
An AFP reporter saw an orange flight data recorder in a house where some of the wreckage fell.
Pakistan Navy official Captain Arshad Mahmood said the crash happened as the plane approached the runway to land.
"The weather was very bad, there was hail and a thunderstorm. The pilot lost control and hit the ground. It tossed up due to the impact and exploded and came down in a fireball," he said.
Nadeem Khan Yusufzai, director general of Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority, said initial reports suggested bad weather was to blame.
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 civil aviation authorities amid financial difficulties, the reports said.
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.