Over 127 On Bhoja Air Flight Feared Dead

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By V.Tiwari
Date  21 April 2012
A Bhoja Air jet crashed on Friday in Pakistan just before it was due to land at Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad, according to Pakistan's Civilian Aviation Authority. The agency blamed the crash on poor weather.

 The plane was carrying up to 118 passengers, according to state television, and crashed about three and a half hours into the flight in a heavily populated residential area near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

The Bhoja Air flight originated in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi.

Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar spoke to a private Pakistani television network, Dawn News, and said that all 118 passengers and nine crew had likely been killed, adding that Civil Aviation officials thought there was little hope of finding survivors.

It remains unclear if any casualties occurred on the ground.

A violent thunderstorm lashed the capital when the plane crashed at around 6:40 p.m. local time and there was limited visibility.
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"The weather was bad, but can't confirm what the actual cause of the crash was," Jaser Abro, spokesperson of the airline, told local papers.

Emergency official Saifur Rehman told Geo TV they were "looking for survivors."

"We can see the plane's wreckage is on fire and we are trying to extinguish it," he said from the scene.

TV footage shows wreckage of the plane against the wall of a small building with rescue officials combing the dark with flashlights.

Witnesses said the scene looked grim.

"I'm working on a construction site not far from the landing strip and I saw it with my own eyes," Samab Ahmad told newslinetoday.com. "I saw the plane crash land and then suddenly catch fire.

"It crashed on top of some sort of building, which could be residential. I can still see the fire from the distance. It's a terrible, terrible scene. I heard the emergency services going to the scene too, including a helicopter."

Bhoja Air is a relatively new airline that began commercial flights just 10 years ago. It shut down due to financial difficulties in 1998 and only recently restarted operations using four planes. The crash brings to light questions many have had over Pakistan's booming air industry. Critics say that standards have not improved as fast as the demand.

The aircraft involved in Friday's crash was reportedly 27 years old and questions have been raised about its airworthiness.

Pakistan had its worst ever aviation disaster in July 2010 when an Airbus A321 operated by Airblue crashed in the hills above Islamabad, killing all 152 passengers and crew. That plane also originated in Karachi.

A government investigation into the tragedy found that the pilot veered off course amid stormy weather. Wreckage from the crash scorched a large swath of the hillside and was scattered over a half-mile.

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