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Pakistan: PIA PK661 crashes with 48 people on board

Junaid Jamshed, Pakistan's singer-turned preacher, among passengers on plane that went down in the north of country.


A commercial aircraft carrying 48 people onboard crashed in northern Pakistan near the capital Islamabad, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said.

PK 661 went down on Wednesday on a domestic flight from the mountainous northern city of Chitral to Islamabad, aviation authorities said.

Pakistan's army has recovered 21 bodies from the wreckage, according to a statement released by the military.

The flight departed from Chitral around 1530 local time (1030 GMT) and was expected to land in Islamabad around 1640.

Junaid Jamshed, Pakistan's singer-turned-preacher, and his wife were also on-board the plane that came down near the town of Havelian in Abbottabad district.

A PIA spokesperson said  it was too early to ascertain the cause of the crash.

"PIA aircraft ATR-42 (AP-BHO) crashed near Havelian at 1642 hours, 42 passengers, five crew members and one ground engineer were on board," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"Rescue efforts are underway, and we are ascertaining the extent of damage to life of those on board the aircraft."

There are unlikely to be any survivors, a government official on the scene said.

"All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris is scattered," Taj Muhammad Khan, an official based in the Havelian region, told Reuters news agency.

Khan added witnesses told him "the aircraft has crashed in a mountainous area, and before it hit the ground it was on fire".

Jamshed rocketed to fame in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s as the singer for the Vital Signs pop band. He launched a solo career later with a string of chart-topping albums and hits.

Jamshed gave up music in 2001 and announced that he was devoting his life to spreading Islam.

Deputy Commissioner Chitral Osama Warraich was on board the flight.

An eyewtiness, Sannan Abbas, said that locals carried out the initial rescue efforts.

"I was working in my shop when I heard the explosion. But it wasn't until 15 minutes later that we heard a plane had crashed," Abbas said.

"There was a lot of smoke when I got to the location and the wreckage of the plane was on fire. The first body we pulled out was badly burned. It was after that the rescue officials and the army got there. The area is very remote and it was getting quite dark, making rescue efforts very difficult."

MWC News’ Syed Shah reporting from Islamabad said the pilot had sent a distress signal before the plane crashed.

Some relatives of those onboard have gathered at Islamabad airport but were getting very little information or assistance from authorities, according to MWC News’ Syed Shah.

Pakistan's Dawn News reported that 40 ambulances were dispatched from Islamabad and a helicopter will be used to put out the fire. It added that due to darkness and remoteness of the crash site, rescue efforts were proving to be very difficult. 

Pakistan's last major air disaster was in 2015 when a Pakistani military helicopter crashed in a remote northern valley, killing eight people including the Norwegian, Philippine and Indonesian envoys and the wives of Malaysian and Indonesian envoys.

The deadliest crash was in 2010, when an Airbus 321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into hills outside Islamabad while about to land, killing all 152 on board.

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