Just two of the 99 people who boarded the Pakistan passenger plane survived when it crashed into a residential neighbourhood of Karachi, officials disclosed on Saturday.
The Pakistan International Airlines plane made multiple approaches to land at Karachi airport on Friday when it came down among houses, which set in motion a rescue operation that lasted into the night.
According to the Sindh Health Ministry, the bodies of all the passengers and crew had been recovered, adding that 19 had been identified.
DNA testing was being carried out at the University of Karachi to help identify the dead.
Flames and plumes of smoke were sent into the air as the plane came down, its wings slicing through rooftops before crashing onto a street.
Residents were the first to search through debris for survivors, with witnesses reporting the cries of a man hanging from the plane’s emergency exit door.
A local hospital earlier reported it had received the bodies of people killed on the ground.
PIA stated that air traffic control lost contact with the plane travelling from Lahore to Karachi just after 2:30 PM (0930 GMT).
The crash comes as Pakistanis plan to celebrate the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, with many travelling to their homes in cities and villages.
Residents near the scene recounted how their walls shook before a big explosion erupted as the aircraft slammed into the neighbourhood.
An AFP reporter witnessed charred bodies being loaded into ambulances.
“It was an (Airbus) A320, which is one of the safest planes,” PIA chief executive Arshad Mahmood Malik said at a press conference. “Technically, operationally everything was in place.”
Aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the captain, Sajjad Gull, had been described by the airline as a senior A320 pilot with extensive flight experience.
Airbus said that the plane had first entered service in 2004 and was acquired by PIA a decade later and had logged around 47,100 flight hours.
PIA promised a full independent investigation.
– ‘Prayers & condolences’ –
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “shocked and saddened” by the crash, tweeting that he was in touch with the state airline’s chief executive.
“Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Pakistan military said security forces were deployed to the neighbourhood and helicopters were used to survey the damage, while offering condolences over the “loss of precious lives.”
Commercial flights resumed only days ago after planes were grounded during a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.
Pakistan has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.
It has been involved in numerous controversies over the years, including the jailing of a drunk pilot in Britain in 2013.