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Passenger Airliner Crashes in Pakistan; All 127 Aboard Presumed Dead

Common Dreams staff

Pakistani rescue workers and local residents search the site of a plane crash near Islamabad today that killed at least 118 people. (AFP/Getty)

A Pakistani passenger jet with 127 people on board crashed into wheat fields Friday as it was trying to land in a thunder storm at an airport near the capital Islamabad, reports the Associated Press citing officials. Sobbing relatives of those on the flight flocked to the airport as a government minister expressed little hope of finding survivors.

The flight was traveling from the country's largest city of Karachi to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, officials said.

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CNN International reports:

A commercial airplane carrying at least 121 people crashed Friday in Rawalpindi just before it was to land at an airport in Islamabad, according to Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority, which cited poor weather as a possible factor.

The Bhoja Air Boeing 737 was on its first flight from Karachi to Islamabad, authority spokesman Pervaz George told CNN, who said weather conditions in the capital were cloudy. Officials initially reported that 131 people were on board, but George later reduced that number.

There were no survivors.

The crash occurred near the Chaklala airbase, which the Pakistani air force uses, and is adjacent to the Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad.

Debris was scattered across the crash site as workers sifted through the wreckage in the heavily populated residential area.

Associated Press reports:

It was unclear whether any people on the ground were killed, but the crash happened in what appeared to be a relatively unpopulated rural area. A violent rain, wind and thunder storm was lashing the capital at the time of the crash, which occurred about 6:40 p.m. local time.

"It was really bad weather for a flight," said Navy captain Arshad Mahmood, who lives near the crash site. "The pilot was forced to move down to avoid clouds that were generating the lightening and thunder."

Several farmers threshing wheat saw the craft burst into flames when it hit the ground.

"The flames leapt up like they were touching the sky," said Mohammad Zubair.

The army declared an emergency and cordoned off the crash site

TV footage showed wreckage of the plane, including parts of what looked like its engine and wing, up against the wall of a small building. Rescue officials were working in the dark, with many using flashlights as they combed the area.

The last major plane crash in the country — and Pakistan's worst ever — occurred in July 2010 when an Airbus A321 aircraft operated by Airblue crashed in the hills overlooking Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board.

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