PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – There are unlikely to be any survivors from a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane carrying about 40 people that crashed on Wednesday in a mountainous northern region, a government official at the crash site said.
PIA said its plane lost contact with the control tower en route to the capital, Islamabad, from the northern region of Chitral.
The plane crashed in the Havelian area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 125 km (77 miles) north of Islamabad.
“All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris is scattered,” Taj Muhammad Khan, a government official based in Havelian, told Reuters.
Khan, who was at the site of the crash, said witnesses told him “the aircraft has crashed in a mountainous area, and before it hit the ground it was on fire”.
Images shown on Pakistani TV channels and circulated on social media showed a trail of wreckage engulfed in flames on a mountain slope.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) put the number of people on board at 47 but Sohail Ahmed, a PIA official in Chitral, said there were 41 people on board, including four crew members.
“Rescue teams are reaching the scene of the crash, and then we will know more,” Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Pervez George told Reuters.
Geo News and Dawn News TV stations, citing civil aviation sources, said the plane lost contact with the CAA at around 4.30 p.m. (1130 GMT).
Junaid Jamshed, a well-known Pakistani pop star turned evangelical Muslim cleric, was on board the crashed aircraft, according to Ahmed, the PIA official in Chitral.
Jamshed, a singer in one of Pakistan’s first major rock bands in the 1990s, abandoned his singing career to join the Tableeghi Jamaat group, which travels across Pakistan and abroad preaching about Islam.
According to the flight manifest, there were several people on board with foreign names.
Plane crashes are not uncommon in Pakistan and safety standards are often criticized.
In recent years, media has reported on multiple near-misses as planes over-run runways and engines caught fire.
In 2010, a passenger plane crashed in heavy rain near Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board. Two years later, an plane operated by a private Pakistani company, with 127 people on board, crashed near Islamabad. All on board were killed.