Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Airblue plane crashed near Islamabad

No one survived the crash of a Pakistani passenger plane that went down in the outskirts of the capital Islamabad Wednesday morning with 152 people on board, officials said.

Rescuers worked in heavy rains to recover bodies from the wreckage, as officials launched an investigation to determine why the accident occurred. Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said 115 bodies have been taken to area hospitals.

Initially, Kaira and Interior Minister Rehman Malik reported survivors in the crash. Kaira said there were eight survivors and Malik said there were six.

But Kaira said the initial information received from the scene was incorrect, and both men later said no one survived the crash.

Hours ago, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's ambassador to the United Kingdom, said crews combing through the debris had recovered a so-called "black box" -- which is actually orange -- that is either the craft's flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder. Information from the recorder will help authorities determine the cause of the tragedy.

But Kaira later told reporters that the "black box" has not been recovered.

The Airblue plane was headed to Islamabad from the sea port city of Karachi when it crashed in a hillside while trying to land, said Pervez George, a spokesman for the country's civil aviation authority.

The Airbus A321 was carrying 146 passengers and six crew members, George and AirBlue said. The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan said two of the people aboard were American citizens.

Raheel Ahmed, an AirBlue representative, told CNN that among the passengers, 110 were male, 29 were female, five children and two infants. Ahmed said the pilot was Capt.
Pervez Iqbal Chauhdary, one of the airline's top pilots with 35 years and more than 25,000 hours of flying experience.

Malik, appearing on Pakistani TV, said the plane was at 2,600 feet as it approached Islamabad but went back up to 3,000 feet before eventually crashing.

"It came from the city toward the Margalla Hills. It was raining heavily," said area resident Ahsan Mukhtar, who saw the plane go down. "It shattered into pieces as soon as it crashed. A burst of flames came off, but the rain put out the fire."

The Margalla Hills are a series of small hills north of the capital.

Officials do not know if weather played a factor in the crash. Pakistan is in the midst of the annual monsoon season, when rain sweeps across the subcontinent from June until September.

Airblue, a private airline company, offers flights within Pakistan, as well as to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the United Kingdom. It makes a fuel stop in Turkey when it is flying from Manchester, England.

"The aircraft was absolutely airworthy. There was nothing technically wrong," said Taheel Ahmed, a spokesman for the airline.

Airbus issued a statement saying the Airbus A321 was delivered from the production line in 2000, leased to Airblue in 2006, and had accumulated about 34,000 flight hours in some 13,500 flights.

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