Pakistan PM orders air crash inquiry

Judicial investigation ordered and airline owner banned from leaving country after the deaths of all 127 people onboard.

Pakistan air crash

Pakistan’s prime minister has called for a judicial inquiry after the deaths of 127 people in an air crash near the capital city, Islamabad.

Announcing on Saturday that he had ordered a judicial commission to investigate the accident, Yousuf Raza Gilani said “it is not fair to reach any conclusion without a proper investigation”.

The Bhoja Air flight from Karachi city burst into flames on Friday evening after coming down in fields near a village on the outskirts of the Islamabad as it approached the city’s international airport amid bad weather.

The airline said the Boeing 737 passenger jet was carrying 121 passengers, including 11 children, as well as six crew.

“There is no chance of any survivors. It will be only a miracle. The plane is totally destroyed.”

– Police official Fazle Akbar

The owner of Bhoja Air, a private carrier, has been banned from leaving the country, and the government has launched an investigation into the air crash.

Police have said there is no chance of finding any survivors. Soldiers and emergency workers have been looking for bodies and body parts among the debris.

Rehman Malik, interior minister, said on Saturday that Farooq Bhoja, head of Bhoja Air, had been put on the “exit control list”.

“The causes will be investigated, whether it was any fault in the aircraft, it was lightning, the bad weather or any other factor that caused loss of precious lives,” he said.

Jahanzeb Khan, a Bhoja Air representative, declined comment.

‘Black box’ recovered

Investigators have recovered the aircraft’s “black box” flight recorders, according to reports.

So far 110 bodies have been recovered from the crash site, Brigadier Sarfraz Ali, head of the recovery efforts, said.

“There is no chance of any survivors. It will be only a miracle. The plane is totally destroyed,” Fazle Akbar, police official, said.

The crash site near Islamabad airport has harrowing scenes of body parts scattered everwhere [Reuters]

“We cannot identify them because some of the bodies are not recognisable.”

Relatives and friends of passengers killed in the crash gathered at Karachi airport, where distraught family members indentified the names of the people on board on the flight.

Nadeem Khan Yusufzai, director-general of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, has said initial reports suggested bad weather was to blame for the crash.

Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Islamabad, said the area was hit by heavy rain and a thunder storm at the time of the crash.

“We’ve been told there were 57 men on the flight, including 55 women and five infants and four children, as well as six crew, which brings us up to 127 people,” he said.

“A witness at the crash site described to us harrowing scenes of bodies scattered everywhere, many of them mutilated, many of them in pieces.”

Debris scattered

Debris from the crash was scattered over a 2km radius, he said, adding that lights had been brought to the site to allow work to continue through the night.

Torn fragments of the fuselage, including a large section bearing the airline’s logo, littered the fields around the village of Hussain Abad, where the jet came down.

Rescue workers in orange jumpsuits and local residents used torches to search through the wreckage after nightfall, assisted by soldiers carrying assault rifles.

Part of the airline’s name could be read on a large section of damaged white fuselage from the passenger cabin.

Television channels showed charred parts of the aircraft strewn across a street in what appeared to be a residential area.

An airport source said the aircraft had been due to land at Islamabad airport at 6:50pm local time (13:50 GMT) but lost contact with the control tower at 6:40pm and crashed shortly afterwards before reaching the runway.

Islamabad airport, which was shut down after the crash so that emergency vehicles could rush to the site of the crash, later reopened, Pervez George, the spokesperson of the Civil Aviation Authority, told Pakistan-based Geo television.

Worst disasters

Bhoja Air started domestic operations in Pakistan in 1993 and eventually expanded to international flights to the United Arab Emirates in 1998.

The airline had been grounded in 2000 by the Civil Aviation Authority amid financial difficulties, the reports said.

The worst aviation tragedy in Pakistani soil came in July 2010 when an Airbus 321 passenger jet operated by the private airline Airblue crashed into hills overlooking Islamabad while coming in to land after a flight from Karachi.

All 152 people on board were killed in the accident, which occurred amid heavy rain and poor visibility.

The deadliest civilian air crash involving a Pakistani jet came in 1992 when a PIA Airbus A300 crashed into a cloud-covered hillside on its approach to the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, killing 167 people.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies