PIA Airbus A320 Crashes Into Residential Area

**Update: 05/22/20 @ 15:40 UTC – Updated with the latest details**

A Pakistan International Airlines plane has reportedly crashed in Karachi. The Airbus A320 aircraft, which was said to be carrying 90 passengers and eight crew, was on route from Lahore to Jinnah International Airport. The A320 crashed in a residential area, destroying at least five or six homes.

PIA crash Karachi
A Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A320 has crashed in Karachi. Photo: Getty Images

Five homes destroyed

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Airbus A320, registered AP-BLD, was operating flight PK8303 from Lahore to Karachi this afternoon. The aircraft took off on time at 13:00 local for the one hour and 45-minute flight to Karachi.

While it appears that most of the flight proceeded without incident, the aircraft seems to have run into trouble on approach to Karachi. The Airbus A320 crashed into a residential area near Karachi’s Model Colony district. Business Recorder reports that five homes and some vehicles have been destroyed in the crash.

PIA crash Karachi
The aircraft destroyed homes in a residential area. Photo: Getty Images

Footage shared on social media shows destroyed buildings, plumes of smoke and homes engulfed in flames. The BBC reports that emergency services are in attendance, and a statement by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said Army Quick Reaction Force and Sindh Pakistan Rangers have arrived on site to assist in rescue efforts.

The latest report from Sky News suggests there may have been as many as 107 people on board in total. Two are rumored to have escaped with their lives. One is reported to be Bank of Punjab President Zafar Masud who was reportedly pulled from the wreckage by local people.

However, there are also reports of casualties on the ground. Seemin Jamali, the executive director of nearby Jinnah Hospital, told Sky News 17 bodies and six injured people had been brought to the facility so far.

Footage has emerged of other people being rescued from the scene. However, it’s not known if these were passengers on the plane or individuals injured on the ground.

Eyewitness reports

AP-BLD is a 15-year-old Airbus A320-200, leased from GECAS by PIA since October 2014. It has previously flown for China Eastern Airlines since its manufacture in 2004. Gulf News states that passengers included 51 males, 31 females and nine children. An eyewitness told the publication that an engine was on fire prior to the crash, saying,

“I saw the PIA plane with one engine on fire and suddenly there was blast and the aircraft fell on houses in the area. At least six to eight houses are on fire while rescue teams are struggle to make way through narrow streets to rescue people.” 

Witness Shakeel Ahmed told Sky News,

“The aeroplane first hit a mobile tower and crashed over houses.”

A PIA spokesperson, Abdullah H Khan, told the publication,

“The last we heard from the pilot was that he had some technical problem. It is a very tragic incident.”

PIA crash Karachi
Rescuers have been working all day. Photo: Getty Images

What happened?

Initial reports suggest the pilot had tried to land, but was advised by the tower he was off course. After performing a go-around, he radioed in to inform control that the aircraft had a technical problem.

A recording of the radio conversation has been shared on local Pakistani TV. In it, the pilot can be heard saying, “I have lost one engine, May Day, May Day.” The tower then informs him that both runways are available for landing. Shortly after, contact is lost.

PIA crash Karachi
Survivors and fatalities are still unconfirmed. Photo: Getty Images

Dawn reports that at the orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan, all emergency service resources have been mobilized to attend the scene. The evacuation of the area is in progress. Chief of Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force, Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan has expressed his condolences, saying,

“PAF stands by PIA at this difficult time and extends all-out support in Rescue Operation.”

As would be expected, the Civil Aviation Authority and the government have stressed the need for a full investigation. Federal Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar is reported by Dawn to have ordered the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board to conduct an “immediate inquiry” into the crash.

Today was the first day of the holidays in Pakistan for Eid, and many people were traveling to visit friends and families. The horrific scenes suggest the aircraft had plowed through homes in the city on its way to the ground.

It’s likely to be some time before the full extent of the situation is known, and certainly before the cause of the crash is verified.

Simple Flying’s thoughts are with all those affected by today’s tragic events.