Nineteen people were killed when a small military plane crashed into a residential area in Rawalpindi early yesterday, officials told AFP.
The plane crashed into a poor 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 taken 19 dead bodies to hospital … that included 14 civilians and all 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.
“All the bodies are badly burned, so DNA tests are required for identification,” he added.
Videos and photographs uploaded onto social media showed huge flames rising from the houses and several people wailing and crying.
“Oh God, what has happened to us. My sister and her entire family is killed,” an elderly man said on Pakistan’s Geo television station.
One resident told AFP 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 Mohamed Sadiq.
“People were screaming. We tried to help them but the flames were too high and the fire too intense,” he said, adding that he believed seven members of one family were among the dead.
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.
According to the military’s information wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the crashed aircraft was on a routine training flight, 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 that smoke was still rising from the wreckage and destroyed homes, while pieces of the plane were visible on a nearby roof.
Hours after the crash rescue workers could be seen combing through the smouldering site, gathering debris and inspecting the scene while ambulances swarmed the area.
Military officials had also cordoned off the crash site while a crowd of residents stood nearby, some of them sobbing.
Prime Minister Imran Khan offered his condolences to the affected families and wished a “quick recovery for the injured”, according to a tweet by the Pakistani government.
In a statement, President Dr Arif Alvi expressed his condolences and prayed for recovery of those injured in the incident.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in the crash.
Pakistan has a chequered aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.
In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while travelling from Chitral in remote northern Pakistan to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.
The deadliest air disaster on Pakistani soil was in 2010, when an Airbus 321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into the hills outside Islamabad while coming in to land, killing all 152 on board.