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Gilani orders plane crash probe, official hints at blunder (Roundup)

Pakistan,Crime/Disaster/Accident,Indo-Pak/Pakistan, Sat, 21 Apr 2012 IANS

Islamabad, April 21 (IANS) Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Saturday ordered a judicial probe into Friday's airliner crash near here in which all 127 people on board were killed as the country's top met department official said the plane should have never been given permission to land.


The Boeing-737 of the Bhoja airline was on its maiden flight from Karachi to Islamabad, carrying 122 passengers and five crew members, when it crashed in stormy weather minutes before landing at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport here at 7 p.m.


Speaking to media Saturday after visiting the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) where the bodies of the victims have been kept, Gilani described the crash as "a great tragedy in the history of Pakistan".


Director General of the Meteorological Department Arif Mehmood said the Civil Aviation Authority had been twice warned about adverse weather conditions over Islamabad air space Friday, Geo New reported.


"The first warning was issued at 3:00 p.m. which cited major aviation hazards; the second warning was issued prior to 6:00 p.m.," he said.


Both warnings stated that the wind pressure was extremely high, Mehmood said adding that the Bhoja Airlines plane, which crashed, should have never been given permission to land.


"The plane should have been directed to land at the alternate airport, which is the Allama Iqbal Airport in Lahore," he said.


Director General of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Nadeem Yousafzai later said the investigation into the plane crash could take anywhere from three months to one year.


The black box of the plane could take a month to decode, he added.


He also averred that the weather warnings issued by the Met Department were not so severe to close down the airport.


Yousafzai also clarified that the plane carried 122 passengers and a five-member crew though reports earlier had mentioned 118 passengers and nine crew members.


Several officials of the Bhoja airline, including owner Farooq Bhoja, have been barred from leaving the country until the probe into the crash is completed, said Interior Minister Rehman Malik Saturday.


Boeing, the US aircraft company, has offered technical assistance in the plane crash's investigation.


Meanwhile, special counters have been set up at the PIMS to facilitate the mourning relatives, who arrived here Saturday on a special plane from Karachi.


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