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Jetliner With 99 Aboard Crashes Into Crowded Pakistani Neighborhood

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistan International Airlines plane with at least 99 people aboard including military and business figures crashed on Friday in a residential neighborhood near the airport in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and officials reported dozens of deaths and injuries.

The plane, Flight 8303, an Airbus A320, was en route from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi and crashed at 2:37 p.m., officials said.

There were at least 91 passengers and eight crew members on board, Pakistani officials said. Nasir Hussain Shah, a provincial minister, said at least two people had survived the crash but had injuries.

Among the passengers were military officers, a former parliamentarian, an executive of a major television news channel and several prominent bankers from national and international banks, officials said. The president of Bank of Punjab, one of Pakistan’s largest lenders, survived with injuries, according to the national airline, Pakistan International Airline, or P.I.A.

Air Marshal Arshad Malik, the chief executive officer of P.I.A., said that the corpses of at least 41 passengers had been taken to the city’s two major government hospitals.

Officials said civil and military officials had begun a rescue operation, but as night fell, the recovery efforts were slowed by the darkness.

As the plane approached the airport, it turned around, circling, before attempting to land again, officials and witnesses said. As the airplane approached the airport in a final attempt to land, it clipped the rooftops of several houses near the runway, before crashing into the street of the neighborhood, called Model Colony. Thick plumes of smoke billowed from the crash site, the images broadcast to the nation on local television networks, which showed charred rooftops and several houses and vehicles on fire.

Officials said the scene would complicate recovery efforts as the neighborhood was crammed with houses and a winding, narrow street leading into it. Several survivors and bodies were trapped under the rubble, and the rescue operation would take two to three days to complete, Mr. Malik said in a news conference.

“Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a Twitter post. “Rescue & relief teams on ground as this is the priority right now. Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased.”

Rizwan Khan, a political activist who is taking part in rescue operations, said that eight houses had been completely damaged. “In the beginning, we tried to rescue the people, but because of severe heat, they could not do it,” he said.

Mr. Khan added that rescue teams from aviation and military had reached on the site within the minutes because of its proximity.

The pilot told the control tower that he was having technical difficulties, according to Mr. Malik. He said the airline was trying to determine what those difficulties were.

“The pilot was told that both runways were ready for him to land,” Mr. Malik told a Pakistani TV channel. “However, the pilot decided to do a go-around. Why did he do that, due to what technical reason, that we will find out.”

An Airbus spokesman, Stefan Schaffrath, said the company was aware of the crash but had no details about the circumstances. Airbus expressed regret and said in a statement that it was providing “full technical assistance” to the Pakistani authorities.

The A320 typically has around 180 seats. Airbus said in its statement that the plane that crashed had been in service since 2004 but with Pakistan International Airlines only since 2014, logged about 47,100 flight hours and 25,860 flight cycles as of Friday.

Airworthiness documents showed the plane last received a government check on Nov. 1, 2019, The Associated Press reported. The airline’s chief engineer signed a separate certificate April 28 saying that all maintenance had been conducted. It said “the aircraft is fully airworthy and meets all the safety” standards.

The crash happened days after Pakistan allowed domestic flights to resume after a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Model Colony is a busy, congested neighborhood nearly two miles from the Karachi airport.

Indian television channels showed large crowds packed into the neighborhood near the crash site, with people rushing toward ambulances as black smoke clogged the sky. One man carried a boy in his arms as he ran past journalists and emergency workers. Police officers and paramilitary rangers tried to disperse the crowds from the accident site.

The crash occurred as Muslims around the world were about to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a holiday dedicated to the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. News channels said many of the passengers had been traveling home to be with family for the holiday.

Syed Shibli Faraz, the Pakistani information minister, said the crash was “a very tragic incident just before Eid.”

Pakistan has a troubled recent history of air disasters. The deadliest was in 2010, when an Airbus flying from Karachi crashed into hills, killing all 152 on board. In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed, killing 48 people, including a famous former pop singer.

By late afternoon on Friday, emergency workers had poured into the neighborhood near the crash site. Many parked cars had been destroyed.

Amjad Shah, who lives in the neighborhood, said he woke when he heard a sound “like a bomb exploding.” He said that security officers were trying to move people away from the crash site, but were “facing huge difficulties” because of the crowds and the narrow streets.

Salman Masood and Zia ur-Rehman reported from Islamabad and Maria Abi-Habib from Los Angeles, Jeffrey Gettleman contributed reporting from New Delhi and Stanley Reed from London.

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