Pakistan mourns Karachi plane crash on Eid holiday as rescue operation continues

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Celebrations for the Muslim holiday of Eid in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Saturday were set to be muted, as the rescue operation from Friday’s deadly passenger plane crash continued.

In total 97 bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) A-320 plane, which came down in the residential area known as Model Colony, a spokesperson from the Pakistan Army said. Three of the passengers killed were children.

A PIA spokesman confirmed to NBC News that a U.S. citizen was among the dead. He did not release anymore details.

Two passengers survived, among them, Zafar Masud, president of the Bank of Punjab, whose sister Zainab Imam, told NBC News it was “a miracle” that he was alive.

“The chances of survival of someone in a plane crash are so low that I was almost certain that we had lost him,” said the communications manager based in Washington D.C.

She added that she had been “paralyzed by fear” when she learned of the fatal crash on Twitter, aware that her brother was on the flight.

After her family in Karachi called with the news of his survival, she said she could not stop crying.

“You never think that a miracle would happen to you in that way…it was unbelievable,” she said, adding that she had briefly spoken with her brother.

Recognizing her family’s good fortune, she said: “There are so many other families like ours who were not as lucky. We’re praying for them, we’re sending them strength, we’re sending them love.”

Military crews were still recovering bodies on Saturday after huge cranes rolled in to lift debris. A mobile morgue was also set up as hospitals remained stretched by the deadly coronavirus

Officials said recovering all the dead could take two to three days. An investigation has been launched into what caused the crash.

The plane’s manufacturer Airbus, said it would provide full technical assistance to investigators in France and Pakistan.

Flight 8303 was making the short trip from Lahore to Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority said. Social distancing rules in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, meant only 99 people were on board as every other seat was kept vacant.

Just before it came down, the pilot transmitted a mayday emergency appeal to the control tower.

At least 25 homes were destroyed in the crash. So far, nine families have been reaccommodated, an army spokesman said, adding that the government had pledged to bear the expense of home repairs.

The crash was the country’s worst air disaster since 2012, when an aircraft went down near Islamabad.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “shocked and saddened” by the crash and had instigated an “immediate inquiry.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “The U.S. stands with Pakistan during this difficult time.”

Mushtaq Yusufzai reported from Peshawar and Adela Suliman from London.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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