Up to 127 people are believed to have died after a Boeing 737 crashed while trying to land in bad weather near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, officials have said.
The Bhoja Air flight from Karachi came down in Rawalpindi, outside Islamabad's international airport, police official Fazle Akbar said, adding that emergency teams have been sent to the site.
"There is no chance of any survivors. It will be only a miracle. The plane is totally destroyed," he told the AFP news agency from the crash site.
Relatives and friends of passengers killed in the crash gathered at Karachi airport, where distraught family members indentified the names of the 127 people on board on the flight.
"There is no chance of any survivors. It will be only a miracle. The plane is totally destroyed."
- Police official Fazle Akbar
So far 110 bodies have been recovered from the crash site, Brigadier Sarfraz Ali, who is heading the recovery efforts, told reporters.
Debris from the crash was scattered over a 2km radius, he said, adding that lights had been brought to the site to allow work to continue through the night.
Torn fragments of the fuselage, including a large section bearing the airline's logo, littered the fields around the village of Hussain Abad, where the plane came down.
Rescue workers in orange jumpsuits and local residents used torches to search through the wreckage after nightfall, assisted by soldiers carrying assault rifles.
Part of the airline's name could be read on a large section of ripped white fuselage from the passenger cabin.
Flight data recorder
An AFP reporter saw an orange flight data recorder in a house where some of the wreckage fell.
Saifur Rehman, an official from the police rescue team, said the plane came down in Hussain Abad village, about 3km from the main Islamabad highway.
Medical officials have told local media that rescue teams and ambulances were facing difficulty in accessing the site of the crash because of the rush of people around it.
Witnesses told Dunya News, a television channel, that flames could be seen rising from the crash site and the fire had reportedly engulfed several buildings, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
Television channels showed charred parts of the aircraft strewn across a street in what appeared to be a residential area.
"Fire erupted after the crash. The wreckage is on fire, the plane is completely destroyed. We have come with teams of firefighters and searchlights and more rescuers are coming," Rehman told Geo television.
An airport source said the plane had been due to land at Islamabad airport at 6:50pm (1350 GMT) but lost contact with the control tower at 6:40pm and crashed shortly afterwards before reaching the runway.
Islamabad airport, which was shut down after the crash so that emergency vehicles could rush to the site of the crash, has reopened, Pervez George, the spokesperson of the Civil Aviation Authority, has told Geo television.
Bhoja Air relaunched domestic operations with a fleet of five 737s in March, according to newspaper reports, when the airline was planning to start flights connecting Karachi, Sukkur, Multan, Lahore and Islamabad.
Bhoja had been grounded in 2000 by the Civil Aviation Authorities amid financial difficulties, the reports said.
The worst aviation tragedy on Pakistani soil came in July 2010 when an Airbus 321 passenger jet operated by the private airline Airblue crashed into hills overlooking Islamabad while coming in to land after a flight from Karachi.
All 152 people on board were killed in the accident, which occurred amid heavy rain and poor visibility.
The deadliest civilian plane crash involving a Pakistani jet came in 1992 when a PIA Airbus A300 crashed into a cloud-covered hillside on its approach to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, killing 167 people.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|