Pakistani soldiers cordon off the site where a Army Aviation Corps aircraft crashed in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. Aamir Qureshi/ AFP
Eighteen people were killed when a small military plane crashed into a residential area in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi early on Tuesday, officials told the media.
The plane crashed into a village near an upscale neighbourhood in the garrison city that is home to the army’s headquarters, creating a fireball that lit up the night sky and terrified residents.
“We have received 18 dead bodies including 12 civilians and five crew members,” said local rescue spokesman Farooq Butt, adding that a further 12 people had been injured in the accident near the capital Islamabad.
One resident told the media that the crash happened around 2am.
“I woke to the sound of a huge explosion. I stepped out of my house and saw huge flames and we rushed to the site,” said Mohammad Sadiq.
“People were screaming. We tried to help them but the flames were too high and the fire too intense, so we could not do anything. The dead includes seven members of one family and most of them were burned to death.”
Another resident Ghulam Khan said he heard the plane as it buzzed over his house, adding the aircraft appeared to be on fire before it crashed.
“The sound was so scary,” he added.
The military’s information wing said the plane was on a routine training mission when the accident occurred, adding that rescue officials had extinguished the fire caused by the crash and moved the injured to a local hospital.
An AFP reporter at the scene said smoke was still rising from the wreckage and destroyed homes, while pieces of the plane were visible on a nearby roof.
Rescue workers could be seen combing through the smouldering site, gathering debris and inspecting the scene while ambulances swarmed the area.
Military officials had cordoned off the crash site while a crowd of residents stood nearby, some of them sobbing.
The crash site was so congested that the rescue workers had to break portion of a wall to reach the crashed plane. Authorities suspended power as overhead electricity wires and a power grid were creating hurdles in the movement of rescue cranes.
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane came down among houses on Friday afternoon after both engines failed as it approached Karachi airport, the airline said.
After the aircraft reportedly called off an earlier attempt to land and went around for a second attempt, a controller radioed the pilot of flight 8303 that he appeared to be turning left, suggesting he was off-course.
The news has led to an outpouring of grief: the tragedy of the incident compounded by the fact that the festival of Eid was just around the corner, and many of the victims were likely returning to their families to celebrate.
More than 820 people were injured and about 15,000 people have been evacuated, the agency said. Some have sought refuge in the mountains, while others went to cramped evacuation centres, witnesses said.
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