Karachi: A cargo plane crashed in flames into a residential area in Pakistan`s largest city soon after takeoff on Sunday, killing all eight Russian crew and at least one person on the ground, officials said.
The Russian-made plane slammed into a housing complex under construction in Karachi, sending fire and smoke into the sky and razing or damaging about 20 buildings. The aircraft narrowly missed hitting several large apartment buildings only a few hundred yards (meters) away.
Authorities pulled one labourer’s body from the smoking rubble on Sunday and another person on the ground was hospitalised with severe burns. Emergency teams were searching for any additional survivors or bodies.
The crash was the second this month in Karachi, the main port city in the south, and the third in Pakistan in less than five months.
The Sudan-bound plane crashed around 1:50 am, when many people in the upscale neighbourhood were asleep. One of the plane`s engines was on fire as it flew overhead, several witnesses said.
"I saw one of its wings was burning and there was a blast and the fire engulfed the aircraft very quickly," said Riaz Ahmed.
Residents said most of the houses destroyed were under construction and believed unoccupied except for a few of the labourers building them. Karachi police chief Fayaz Leghari said one body had been pulled from the debris and more might be found but that a larger catastrophe had narrowly been averted.
"It would have been a big disaster had the plane hit the residential apartments," Leghari said.
Aviation authority spokesman Pervais George said the plane came down two minutes after takeoff from the city`s international airport. He said the eight crew, all Russians, were dead.
Many people initially thought the blast was from a bomb, a regular event in militant-torn Pakistan.
"I was sleeping and the huge blast awoke me. I thought some suicide attack might have occurred and I ran outside," said Rehan Hashmi.
Local doctor Abdul Razak said one person was being treated at a hospital for severe burns.
Fire trucks sprayed foam onto the crash site and after two hours the blaze was extinguished.
Hundreds of people came to see the spectacle and film it with their mobile phones, hampering access for emergency workers.
Most of the housing complex was reserved for naval officers and their families.
George said the plane was an Ilyushin Il-76, a multipurpose cargo plane that is often used for ferrying humanitarian aid to developing countries, as well as other large items.
Earlier this month in Karachi, a small passenger plane crashed soon after takeoff, killing 21 people.
In July, a passenger jet operated by Pakistani carrier Airblue crashed into hills overlooking the capital, Islamabad, during stormy weather, killing all 152 on board.