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Plane crashes near Islamabad with more than 150 people on board

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-07-28

A plane carrying more than 150 people has crashed into a wooded hillside while trying to land in bad weather north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

A Pakistani passenger plane with at least 150 people on board crashed in a ball of flames in densely wooded hills while trying to land in Islamabad during bad weather on Wednesday, aviation officials said.

Police said bodies were scattered across the Margalla hills north of the capital. Wreckage was strewn across the largely inaccessible hillside shrouded in heavy cloud and fog during a downpour.

Local authorities said all passengers were feared dead.

“The situation is quite chaotic. The crash site is in a mountainous area that is very difficult to reach, accessible only by foot,” reported FRANCE 24 correspondent Matthieu Mabin from the crash zone. He added that an estimated 300 vehicles are on site to assist with the rescue operation.

"Apparently the cause of the crash is bad weather, but we leave that to the investigators," Airblue spokesman Raheel Ahmed told AFP. "We are now preoccupied with rescue work and striving to take care of the relatives of the passengers who were on board."

"We are trying to get details about the passengers. It's a big tragedy. It's really a big tragedy," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Express TV. "Rescue teams have reached the area. They are fully equipped. They are scanning the entire area. Those wounded or survivors are being provided assistance and arrangements are have been made to take them to hospitals."

Civil aviation spokesman Pervez George said Airblue flight 202 took off from Karachi, Pakistan's financial capital, at 7:45 am (0245 GMT) and had been preparing to land in Islamabad when it crashed.

"When it was preparing to land, it crashed in the Margalla Hills," he said.

Thick smoke could be seen rising from an inaccessible region in the densely wooded hills, where helicopters circled overhead and rescue services dispatched ambulances to the nearest roads, an AFP correspondent said.

City police chief Bani Amin said police were informed of a loud explosion and fire sweeping through the hills that dominate the Islamabad skyline, before confirmation that a passenger plane had crashed.

"The site of crash was inaccessible. We have sent teams. It is a forest…. Helicopters have also been deployed. It is difficult to take out each and every body immediately," he told Geo, a Pakistani TV network.

Pakistan enjoys a relatively good aviation safety record.

The most recent fatal passenger plane crash was a Pakistan International Airlines Fokker F27 plane that came down on July 10, 2006, killing 45 people in the first major aviation accident in Pakistan for more than three years.

Before that the deadliest civilian plane crash involving a Pakistani jet was a PIA Airbus A300 that crashed into a cloud-covered hillside on its approach to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, killing 167 people in September 1992.

Date created : 2010-07-28