Pakistan plane crash investigation begins

Samab Ahmed was in the area where the plane came down: "Suddenly there were flames all over the place"

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Air crash investigators are combing the wreckage of a passenger plane that crashed near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, killing all 127 on board.

Rescue teams working through the night identified 72 bodies and found the jet's flight recorder, officials said.

The Bhoja Air Boeing 737, which had flown from Karachi, crashed on its approach to the airport during a storm.

Grieving relatives have gathered at a hospital in Islamabad to claim the bodies of their loved ones.

The head of Bhoja Air has been barred from leaving the country pending the outcome of the inquiry, officials said.

At the scene

The wreckage of the plane has fallen over a number of kilometres but much is concentrated over the small village of Hussain Abad. We still don't know if any villagers have become casualties.

Body parts are spread all over the place - in nearby fields, inside the village, in front of houses, and in the narrow streets. You can see bits of clothing and belongings scattered all over the place.

Rescuers are now trying to collect the body parts and put them into body bags to secure them and take them to hospital. They will eventually help with identification.

The plane came down in the village of Hussain Abad on the outskirts of Islamabad on Friday evening, scattering debris over a wide area. There are so far no reports of villagers being among the casualties.

At a news conference on Saturday, Nadeem Khan Yousafzai, the head of Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority, said the plane suddenly dropped from 2,900ft (883 metres) to 2,000ft as it was preparing to land.

"It just went down, into a dive. Then contact was lost.

"What happened in this period, that has to be investigated. Was there a downdraft, was there an engine failure?" Mr Yousafzai added.

Pakistani official Capt Arshad Mahmood said there was a heavy thunderstorm with hail as the plane came in to land.

"The weather was very bad. The pilot lost control and hit the ground. It [the plane] tossed up due to the impact and exploded and came down in a fireball," he said.

The plane was more than 27 years old, according to the Aviation Safety Network organisation.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that Farooq Bhoja, head of Bhoja Air, had been barred from leaving the country to ensure his co-operation with the investigation.

"It is being said that the aircraft was pretty old, so it has been ordered to investigate thoroughly the air worthiness of the Bhoja Air aircraft," Mr Malik said.

"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 the loss of precious lives."

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says some people have also called into question Pakistan's system of regulating air safety.

The victims are said to include 11 children and a newly married couple.

Map

A Bhoja Air official in Karachi said it had arranged to fly one member from each family to the capital.

At Islamabad airport, one man yelled "my two daughters are dead", before slumping to the floor in a state of shock.

Weeping relatives have been gathering at Islamabad's main hospital where dozens of coffins are lining a hallway.

Staff at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, their faces covered with masks, sprayed air freshener as families tried to identify the remains.

Abdul Raoof, 55, said he had come for the body of his cousin.

"We have been here since early morning. We go inside the mortuary and return in depression after seeing body parts lying there," he said.

"We are traumatised. We want to get the body and leave this place as early as possible."

Bhoja Air is a small commercial airline that started domestic flights in 1993. It suspended operations in 2001 because of financial difficulties but recently re-opened.

In July 2010, an Airblue Airbus A321 crashed as it was about to land in Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board - Pakistan's worst-ever air disaster.

Although Pakistan's air industry has been booming, critics say standards have not always kept pace with the increase in services.

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