ISLAMABAD • A Pakistani plane carrying 48 people crashed yesterday in the mountainous north of the country and burst into flames, police and aviation authorities said.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Flight PK661 came down on a flight from the city of Chitral to Islamabad, the civil aviation authority said. It was not immediately clear what caused the crash or whether there were survivors.
Rescuers were still struggling to reach the remote site near the town of Havelian in the Abbottabad district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. But villagers had told police they were retrieving body parts from the wreckage, said Mr Ilyas Abbasi, a police official in Havelian.
"The plane has crashed in a far-flung village in the mountains. One has to travel for more than 4km on foot to reach the spot," he said.
"Villagers on site told us that the plane was first on fire and now smoke is rising from the wreckage."
The airline said the plane, an ATR-42 turboprop aircraft, lost contact en route from Chitral.
"A plane has crashed and locals told us that it is on fire," Mr Saeed Wazir, a senior local police official, said earlier.
"Police and rescue officials are on the way," he said, but were facing difficulties reaching the site due to darkness, bad roads and difficult terrain.
Among those on board was Junaid Jamshed, a former Pakistani pop star turned evangelical Muslim who was embroiled in a blasphemy controversy in 2014, according to the Chitral airport manager and local police. The singer's Twitter account had said he was in Chitral. Tributes were pouring in for the former musician on social media.
Pakistan's most recent air disasters involved helicopters, both in 2015.
In May that year, a Pakistani military helicopter crashed in a remote northern valley, killing eight people including the Norwegian, Philippine and Indonesian envoys and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian envoys.
In August 2015, another army helicopter crashed, killing 12 people, all military.
The deadliest air disaster on Pakistani soil occurred in 2010 when an Airbus 321, operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi, crashed into hills outside Islamabad while about to land, killing all 152 on board. An official report blamed the accident on a confused captain and a hostile cockpit atmosphere.
The deadliest accident involving PIA occurred in 1992 when an Airbus A300 crashed into a cloud-covered hillside on approach to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu after the plane descended too early, killing 167 people.