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Pakistan mourns as air crash investigation starts

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-07-29

Authorities are sifting through the wreckage for clues as to what caused Wednesday's Airblue crash that killed all 152 passengers. Foul weather is suspected.

The Pakistani government declared Thursday as a day of mourning for the victims of the Airblue plane crash that killed all 152 passengers on Wednesday. The Islamabad-bound Airbus A321 slammed into the mountains just 15 kilometers away from the capital's airport. The plane’s wreckage is strewn across the densely forested Margalla Hills, hampering the investigation. In particular, officials say the difficult conditions on the ground have frustrated the search for the plane’s “black box” flight recorder that may provide answers as to what led to the crash.

Initially, there were reports of several survivors from the crash, but those early hopes quickly faded once rescue teams arrived on scene to survey the destruction. “There is nothing left, just piles and bundles of flesh. There are just some belongings, like two or three traveling bags, some checkbooks, and I saw a picture of a young boy. Otherwise everything is burned,” rescue worker Murtaza Khan told the Associated Press. The full scope of the challenge confronting rescue teams became apparent as videos of the crash scene began to appear on video-sharing website YouTube revealing just how difficult conditions are on the ground.
 
On the ground video of rescue efforts for Wednesday's plane crash outside of Islamabad (source: You Tube user saqib)
 
The day after the crash, as the search for bodies has ended and the investigation into what prompted the accident begins, there are widespread suspicions that bad weather may have played a role. Heavy monsoon rains and thick clouds have covered the region for several days, prompting aviation officials to believe the plane may have inadvertently veered off course. Witnesses said the plane appeared to be flying very low and that it seemed unsteady in the air. “The plane had lost balance, and then we saw it going down,” said eyewitness Saqlain Altaf who was on a family outing in the hills nearby when the crash occurred.
 
The plane’s manufacturer, Airbus, said it will provide technical assistance to crash investigators.  However, the aircraft had no known technical issues nor did the pilots send any emergency signals, according to Airblue spokesman Raheel Ahmed.

Date created : 2010-07-29

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