Body parts and severed limbs of passengers on board the ill-fated Pakistani airliner which crashed near here were scattered over a one kilometre radius, eyewitnesses said as heavy rain hampered salvage operations.
The crash of the Bhoja Air’s ageing Boeing 737-200 shortly after being cleared to land at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport was the second mishap involving an aircraft near the Pakistani capital in bad weather in less than two years.
Even after 18 hours, the air around the crash site remained heavy with the smell of jet fuel and charred human flesh.
The bodies, most of them burnt or mutilated beyond recognition, were scattered over a one kilometre radius.
Eyewitnesses said they saw a fireball heading downwards and hitting the ground with a bang.
Some bigger parts of the airliner got entangled with high voltage power lines, plunging the area into darkness and impeding the search operation.
“There were terrible scenes when we moved into the houses to recover bodies...I can’t explain in words what I have seen,” a rescue official told the Express Tribune.
“Most were in pieces. It was terrible. I cried after seeing dead children and women,” Raja Bashir, an eyewitness, said.
Some of the wreckage fell on the roofs of houses in Husainabad village though there were no casualties on the ground.
Soldiers and emergency workers resumed at first light the grim task of looking for bodies and body parts in wheat fields around the airport.
A high-level committee headed by Captain Mujahidul Islam, head of the Civil Aviation Authority Safety Investigation Board, has been formed on the directives of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to ascertain the cause of the crash.
Bhoja Air said in a statement on its website that it “wishes to extend its profound condolences to the families and friends” of the passengers.
It is still unclear what caused the crash but the aircraft’s airworthiness was suspect, several aviation experts told the local media.
The black box, which contains key data regarding the flight operation, was retrieved from the wreckage last night.
In July 2010, a total of 152 people were killed when an Airbus A321 of AirBlue, another private carrier, crashed into the Margalla Hills overlooking Islamabad in bad weather.