KARACHI, Pakistan -- A jetliner carrying 98 people crashed Friday in a crowded neighborhood near the airport in Pakistan's port city of Karachi after an apparent engine failure during landing. Officials said there were two survivors from the plane but they also found at least 57 bodies in the wreckage.
It was unknown how many people on the ground were hurt as the Pakistan International Airlines jet, an Airbus A320, plowed into an alley and destroyed at least five houses.
The pilot was heard transmitting a mayday to the tower shortly before the crash of Flight 8303, which was flying from Lahore to Karachi and carrying many traveling for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Video on social media appeared to show the jet flying low with flames shooting from one of its engines.
The plane went down about 2:39 p.m. northeast of Jinnah International Airport in the poor and congested residential area known as Model Colony between houses that were smashed by its wings. Police in protective masks struggled to clear away crowds amid the smoke and dust so ambulances and firetrucks could reach the crash site.
As darkness fell, crews worked under floodlights, and a portable morgue was set up. The Sindh provincial health department said it had recovered 57 bodies, while PIA chairman Arshad Malik said finding all the dead could take two to three days.
Pakistan's civil aviation authority said the plane had 91 passengers and a crew of seven. The A320 can carry up to 180 passengers, depending on how its cabin is configured.
At least two people aboard survived, according to the health department, revising an earlier statement that three were alive.
At least three people on the ground were injured.
Malik announced an investigation into the crash, adding that the aircraft was in good working order.
There was still no official word late Friday on the cause of the crash. The Pakistani army mounted a search and rescue effort, and helicopters were dispatched to the site to transport survivors.
"As of now, rescue efforts are ongoing. However, an inquiry has been launched," said Abdul Sattat Khokhar, a senior civil aviation official serving as the spokesman for the crash response.
A prominent Pakistani journalist and the president of one of the country's largest banks were aboard the flight, and their families reported that they survived the crash, according to local media reports.Gallery: Fear of mass casualties after fatal plane crash in Pakistan
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement shortly after the first reports of the crash emerged. He expressed his deep sorrow over the lives lost and said he had directed all relevant departments to extend relief, rescue efforts and medical aid to the injured. He also ordered an immediate investigation.
Khan tweeted that the airline's CEO was headed to Karachi to oversee rescue and relief efforts.
A transmission of the pilot's final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, indicated he had failed to land and was circling to make another attempt.
"We are proceeding direct, sir -- we have lost engine," a pilot said.
"Confirm your attempt on belly," the air traffic controller said, offering a runway.
"Sir, mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303," the pilot said before the transmission ended.
In one of the radio communications, at least one exchange from the flight sounded like a warning alarm was sounding in the cockpit.
A resident, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the jet circle at least three times, appearing to try to land before it crashed.
Science Minister Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry said this year has been a "catastrophe -- just survival is so difficult," with the pandemic and now the tragedy of the plane crash.
"What is most unfortunate and sad is whole families have died, whole families who were traveling together for the Eid holiday," he said in a telephone interview in the capital of Islamabad.
Information for this article was contributed by Adil Jawad, Jon Gambrell, Kathy Gannon, Munir Ahmed and Asim Tanveer of The Associated Press; and by Susannah George of The Washington Post.
A Section on 05/23/2020
Print Headline: 96 people feared dead in jet crash