A Boeing 737-200 operated by Karachi-based Bhoja Air, a Pakistani domestic carrier, crashed today into a small village near Islamabad, with nine crew members and 118 passengers onboard.
Authorities said they expect no survivors from the airplane and fear the death toll could rise, because some 40 houses in the village of Hussain Abad, where the 737 hit, were reportedly engulfed in flames. The Quick Response Force of the Pakistan Army is participating in the relief and rescue operations.
The aircraft had departed Karachi’s Jinnah Terminal at 5 p.m. and proceeded on schedule until it lost contact with air traffic control at 6.40 p.m., some 10 minutes before its estimated time of arrival at Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport. According to reports, a violent rainstorm lashed the area at the time of the crash. Witnesses said a lightning bolt appeared to have struck the aircraft, as electrical activity in the thunderclouds above was in full swing.
Bhoja Air’s fleet consists of one Boeing 737-400, three 737-200s and one McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30.
The expected death toll could make the accident the worst air disaster in Pakistan since July 2010, when an AirBlue Airbus 321 crashed into the hills overlooking Islamabad while on approach, killing 152 people on board. The government recently completed the inquiry into the AirBlue accident, citing pilot error as the chief cause of the crash.