Plane Carrying Around 100 People Crashes In Karachi

May 22, 2020
Originally published on May 22, 2020 5:09 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

A plane carrying nearly 100 people crashed into a residential neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan, a few hours ago. Domestic flights in the country had been grounded because of coronavirus. They were allowed to start back up a week ago. NPR's Diaa Hadid is in Islamabad this morning. Hi, Diaa.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: What happened?

HADID: So as far as we know, the plane was flying from Lahore, which is Pakistan's second largest city, to Karachi, the country's largest city. And near the airport, local media reported eyewitnesses saying the plane seemed to be on fire. And it crashed nearby into a residential area. This all happened at around 3 p.m. Pakistan time. The situation is still evolving. The local health minister announced that all the major hospitals in Karachi are now on an emergency footing, which means they're expecting mass casualties.

KING: Do we have any sense of numbers?

HADID: Not yet. The mayor of Karachi said that there were no survivors onboard the flight. But we don't know how many people were actually onboard. There's actually conflicting numbers of how many people there were. And also, because the plane landed, smashed into a residential area, we don't have an idea yet about casualties on the ground. Rescue workers are still there on the scene putting out fires. And if you have a listen to this video - it was just uploaded to social media.

(CROSSTALK)

HADID: So you can hear in that a cacophony of people. They're actually wrapping scarves around their faces. And black smoke is pluming around them. They look like they're standing in wreckage. And some of them appear to be getting ready to rush into those flames and smoke and, perhaps, to rescue people.

KING: Has the government said anything at this point?

HADID: Yes, it has. Well, first of all, it's expressed its condolences and because this comes at a particularly tricky time. As you noted, flights in Pakistan had only resumed last week. And there was a lot of people who were waiting to get home after weeks of being grounded where they were. And it's also the Muslim celebration of Eid on Sunday. And that's traditionally a time when families get together. So there was probably an even bigger rush for people to get home. And certainly, for dozens of families, now, at least, across Pakistan, they're just not going to be celebrating anything this year.

KING: That's so tragic. Let me ask you about Pakistan International Airlines. What kind of safety record does this company have?

HADID: Well, its last major crash was in 2016, when one of its planes flying over the Himalayas smashed into a mountain, killing 48 people on board. But more broadly, Pakistani aviation companies just don't have very good records. It's not just PIA, as it's locally known here.

KING: NPR's Diaa Hadid in Islamabad on a flight that crashed a few hours ago in Karachi, Pakistan. Diaa, thank you so much.

HADID: Thank you so much, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.