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Plane carrying 160 on board crashes in Pakistan, several feared dead

Islamabad: A Pakistani passenger plane carrying 160 people crashed into the heavily forested Margalla Hills overlooking Islamabad in rain and bad weather and large number of casualties were feared, officials said.

Private airliner Air Blue operated Airbus A-321, flying from Turkey to Islamabad via Karachi, hit the Margalla Hills near Daman-e-Koh viewpoint around 10 am in thick fog, police and a state-run rescue service officials said.

Police said bodies were strewn across the low mountains near the scene of the smouldering wreckage in inaccessible hills, shrouded in heavy cloud and fog during a downpour.

Up to 10 people were confirmed dead but five injured survivors were airlifted from the crash site by helicopter, according to Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

The inaccessibility of the site and bad weather were hampering rescue efforts, he said.

“Rescue teams, paramilitary Pakistan Rangers and senior police officials have reached the site. The weather is unfriendly but still some helicopters reached the site and airlifted five survivors to hospital,” Malik said.

Rescue workers had to trek for over an hour to reach the site. “They have been directed to remove any survivors on stretchers,” Malik said.

Rescue workers said they had pulled out about 10 bodies from the wreckage.

Earlier, Islamabad Capital Development Authority Chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi had said rescue workers were doing their best to reach the site but it was unlikely that there would be any survivors.

Islamabad has been hit by heavy rains for the past few days and the city was covered by fog and low clouds.

TV news channels quoted Air Blue officials as saying that there were 159 passengers on board the ill-fated aircraft, which had taken off from Karachi at 7.50 am. The officials did not specify the number of crew members.

With rescue efforts hit by bad weather and smoke and fire at the crash site, a spokesperson for the state-run Rescue 1122 service said helicopters had been sought from the military.

“We have sought helicopters from the army’s aviation wing and a counter-terrorism body. We will need at least eight to 10 helicopters because of the inaccessibility of the area,” she said.

The crash occurred in an area that is not easily accessible as the Margalla Hills are covered by thick forests.

City residents said that they had seen the Air Blue aircraft flying ‘very low’ over Islamabad shortly before the crash.

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