ISLAMABAD – A PIA plane with 47 people on-board crashed near Havelian city of Abbottabad district on Wednesday.
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Flight PK-661 “lost contact with the control tower on its way from Chitral to Islamabad a short while ago,” the airline said in a statement.
According to a spokesperson for the Commissioner’s office in Hazara Division, 42 bodies have been recovered from the plane’s wreckage, which had scattered over several kilometres. The Inter-Services Public Relations said around 500 army personnel were taking part in the operation to recover the bodies and any survivors, but witnesses on the crash site said there were unlikely to be any survivors.
The ATR plane, with 42 passengers and five crew members, reportedly crashed at the Patola village near Pakistan Ordinance Factory, Havelian, about 70km (43 miles) north of capital Islamabad.
Thick cloud of smoke was also seen billowing from the area, according to eyewitnesses.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing a plane crash near Havelian, according to district police officer Abbottabad.
The passengers included 31 men, nine women, two infants, and at least three foreigners.
Pop singer turned Islamic preacher Junaid Jamshed, along with his family, and Deputy Commissioner Chitral Osama Warraich are among the dead.
The flight departed from Chitral around 3:30pm and was expected to land at Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport at around 4:40pm.
A PIA official issued a statement in Twitter that the aircraft lost its contact with the Control Tower:
A PIA aircraft has lost contact with control tower. Plz see statement below. pic.twitter.com/AVcNXFL6E2
— Danyal Gilani (@Danyal_Gilani) December 7, 2016
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan have directed the concerned federal departments to immediately initiate rescue efforts and help provincial government, Press Information Department said.
Civil and military rescue teams have been dispatched to the mountainous region to find the whereabouts of the aircraft which was being flown by Captain Saleh Janjua and co-pilot Ahmed Janjua. The pilots gave a Mayday call before disappearing.
Investigations are continuing into the cause of the accident but a recording suggests engine failure as the reason behind the crash.
The national carrier has been accused of safety failures in the past. In the last major crash in 2006, 44 people died. The EU banned PIA flights from flying to Europe in 2007 over safety concerns.
PIA’s emergency response center can be contacted at 0092-21-99044890, 0092-21-99044376 and 0092-21-99044394.