South Asia

Shocked relatives await news after Pakistan crash

Relatives of the victims gather at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital in Islamabad Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Relatives gathered at hospitals and airports in the hope that some survived

Relatives of passengers on the Airblue flight from Karachi to Islamabad are in shock after it crashed north of the Pakistani capital. BBC correspondents have been talking to those awaiting news of their loved ones.

A large number of relatives and friends of those who were on the flight gathered outside the emergency section of Islamabad's Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.

There were women and children among them.

Many were in tears, with other relatives trying to comfort them.

The plane crashed into the Margalla hills that skirt the northern periphery of Islamabad minutes after it was seen coming in at low altitude over the city's no-fly zone.

'Wailing sirens'

There was a long wait for the relatives and friends, as the first bodies from the crash arrived at the hospital some five hours afterwards.

"I don't mind the wait, as long as I get some information about my cousin, Aamer Siddiqui," one of them, Mehmood Gillani, told Ahmad Raza of BBC Urdu.

The wailing siren of an approaching ambulance alerted many and they rushed towards it, only to find that it had brought in a couple of people injured in a road accident.

Shamim Akhtar, a United Nations employee, said his son, Hasan Adil, was on the plane.

The scene at Islamabad airport was one of confusion.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rescuers combed through the wreckage, searching for survivors

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) set up a help desk, but it had no information to share.

One agitated man, Zulfiqar Qadri, turned away from the desk after a CAA employee told him he could not answer his questions.

Mr Qadri told the BBC's Asif Farooqui he was "worried sick", with four of his relatives on the plane.

"Everything is wrong here. Are there any survivors? Is everybody dead? Where are they taking the bodies?" he asked.

"Nobody seems to know. They should at least give us quick information."

'No news'

It was a similar situation in Karachi, where the flight took off.

"We haven't heard anything so far. All we know is that both my brothers were on the flight," Fahd Rasheed, a resident of Karachi's Defence locality, told the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan.

"I spoke to my brother last night and then he left again for the trip this morning.

"We have had no news from the government or the airline so far. My other brother and cousins are trying to find out if they are among the survivors."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption It was a long wait for relatives to find out information

At Karachi airport, there were also complaints of a lack of information.

Express TV showed shots of a man pleading with airport staff for news about his daughter and her husband.

He carried a picture of the couple that was taken at their wedding which took place last weekend.

"They were on a honeymoon trip. My daughter is not even 18 yet," he said.

"Please, for God's sake, tell me something, anything," he pleaded with a TV reporter, before breaking into sobs.

Much of the confusion stemmed from initial claims by Interior Minister Rehman Malik that five people had survived the crash.

Pessimism crept into Mr Malik's tone by late afternoon, but many people still held hope.

BBC staff at the Islamabad bureau received about half-a-dozen calls from acquaintances to ask if they could confirm if certain named passengers could have survived.

Even for those without relatives or friends on the flight, the crash has sparked fear and shock.

Haroon Rashid, from BBC Urdu, noticed the plane not only because of its unusually low flight, but also because it had flown into a no-fly zone.

Another Islamabad resident, a doctor, told the media he noticed the plane due to its unusually loud sound.

"I was driving on the seventh avenue. When I heard this loud sound, I looked up. I saw this huge belly of the plane.

"Its wheels had descended... at the time it just seemed an unusual occurrence, as though something was wrong.

"But when I came to know minutes later that it had crashed, I was shocked. Memory of the vision gives me an eerie feeling now."

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