Islamabad – At least 100 people were killed when a Pakistan International Airlines plane with many people on board crashed into a densely populated residential area near the Jinnah International Airport here on Friday, officials said, days after the COVID-19-induced travel restrictions were lifted.
Flight PK-8303 from Lahore was about to land in Karachi when it crashed at the Jinnah Garden area near Model Colony in Malir, just a minute before its landing, they said.
The PIA Airbus A320 carrying 91 passengers and eight crew members has crashed landed into the Jinnah housing society located near the airport, a spokesperson of the national carrier said.
Earlier, a PIA spokesperson and many media reports said that there were 107 people on board the aircraft.
Faisal Edhi of the Edhi welfare trust told reporters that so far 45 bodies have been recovered.
“Our rescue workers have taken out 45 bodies from the remains of the aircraft,” he said.
The PIA Airbus A-320 has crashed landed into the Jinnah housing society located near the airport, a spokesperson of the national airline said.
“The captain informed the air traffic tower he was having problems with the landing gear before disappearing from the radar,” he said.
The PIA aircraft was flown by Captain Sajjad Gul.
A resident of the colony who witnessed the crash told the local media that the aircraft had fire coming from its wings which crashed into rooftops of some houses before it crash landed.
Footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the site of the crash.
Ambulances and rescue officials arrived at the scene to help residents.
The aircraft wings during the crash landing hit the houses in the residential colony before crashing down.
“At least 25 houses have been damaged in this incident,” Edhi said.
Sindh Health Minister Azra Pechuho said that 34 bodies have so far been shifted to hospitals.
The Civil Aviation Authority sources said that its communication with the plane was cut off one minute before its landing.
Several houses have been damaged in the area where the aircraft crashed.
President Arif Alvi expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in the plane crash incident.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan also expressed shock and grief over the plane crash and said an immediate inquiry would be launched.
“Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash. Am in touch with PIA CEO Arshad Malik, who has left for Karachi & with the rescue & relief teams on ground as this is the priority right now. Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased,” Khan tweeted.
A statement by the Pakistan Army’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that Army Quick Reaction Force and Sindh Pakistan Rangers reached the spot for carrying out rescue and relief operations alongside civil administration.
Minister of Health and Population Welfare has declared emergency in all major hospitals of Karachi after the incident, Dawn news quoted Meeran Yousuf, the media coordinator to the Sindh health minister, as saying.
Sindh’s Minister of Health and Population Welfare has declared emergency in all major hospitals of Karachi due to the plane crash.
Pakistan had resumed commercial passenger air travel on May 16 after a nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 outbreak.
Last year, a PIA aircraft skidded off the runway while landing at Gilgit airport.
On December 6, 2016, PIA flight PK-661 carrying 48 passengers and crew had crashed on the way to Islamabad from Chitral, killing all on board.
Covid-19 New Zealand: masks are not mandatory
Face masks are no longer mandatory on public transport in most of New Zealand as Covid-19 cases continue to drop.
From midnight on Wednesday, they are required only in Auckland, the heart of a recent outbreak, and on planes.
The rest of New Zealand lifted all pandemic restrictions on Monday.
New Zealand was widely praised for its swift response to Covid-19 and everyday life largely went back to normal in June, but the virus reappeared in Auckland in August.
The country’s biggest city went back into lockdown, temporarily, as other curbs were re-imposed elsewhere.
New Zealand has now recorded 1,468 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 25 deaths.
Everywhere except Auckland returned to level one – the lowest of a four-tier alert system – on Monday after seven days of no Covid-19 community cases.
This means life almost as normal – no more social distancing or caps on gatherings such as weddings or sporting events. Everyone can return to work without restriction and wearing a mask is no longer compulsory on public transport.
The government says face coverings aren’t necessary for the general public when there is no evidence of community transmission.
But it is still encouraging people to wear masks on public transport. In Auckland, now at level two, they are still compulsory.
Also, passengers on planes flying to, from and via Auckland – as well as on all Air New Zealand flights – are still required to wear masks.
On Wednesday, authorities reported three new community cases that are not linked to the Auckland cluster. They are connected to a recent chartered flight from Christchurch to Auckland.
Face masks have become one of the big dividers of the pandemic.
Long embraced in many Asian countries, they’ve been resisted by some citizens in the US, Europe and at times New Zealand too.
It only became mandatory four weeks ago to wear facial coverings on public transport at alert level two and above.
Now as most people return to the old normal, top epidemiologists have raised concerns about the dropping of masks.
We’ve argued to “retain mask use in specific situations like public transport and residential care facilities” until there is no community transmission for around four weeks and it’s clear the virus has been eradicated again, said Michael Baker, professor of public health at the University of Otago.
But the epidemiologist, who advises the government on its Covid-19 response, acknowledges the challenge masks pose.
“It gets harder to sustain interest in mask use when people think there’s no virus any more. We don’t have masks ingrained in our culture. And I think people have not got used to them at any point,” he told the BBC.
On Monday New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has championed social distancing and masks, apologised over a maskless selfie with supporters last week, admitting she made a mistake.
Vietnamese pastor released after 4 years imprisonment over religious freedom advocacy
A Vietnamese pastor imprisoned for advocating for religious freedom has finally been released after spending over four years in prison, drawing praise from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
On Sept. 18, USCIRF announced that A Dao, a pastor of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ, had been released from prison. Dao was arrested in 2016 while on his way to visit some members of his church after attending a conference on religious freedom in East Timor.
In April 2017, a Vietnamese court tried and sentenced the pastor to five years imprisonment for allegedly “helping individuals to escape abroad illegally” under Article 275 of the country’s Penal Code. Dao was not expected to be released until Aug. 18, 2021.
USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr, who advocated for Dao’s release through USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, said he hopes the release is a “sign that the Vietnamese government is serious about improving religious freedom conditions and will release other individuals detained for their religious freedom advocacy.”
He also called on Vietnam’s government to “take steps to ensure that local authorities respect A Dao’s freedom and safety should he choose to return to his home village.”
Dao had for years advocated for his fellow church members to enjoy religious freedom in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. While in prison, the pastor was beaten and abused by prison guards, while his church experienced ongoing harassment from the authorities.
Representative Glenn Grothman, who adopted Dao through the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project, said the pastor’s release marked a “hallmark day for both Pastor A Dao and Vietnam.”
“I hope that his release is a sign of Vietnam transitioning from an anti-God totalitarian state to a country in which religion in general and Christianity in particular can be openly practiced,” he said, adding that the release “shows the importance of American elected officials speaking out against oppression and promoting the importance of religious freedom throughout the world.”
“Religion should not be a tool to oppress any person nor a stain on their character,” he said. “I hope other American Congressmen familiarize themselves with the oppression that religious minorities, which in many parts of the world are Christians, have to deal with on a daily basis.”
Under Vietnam’s constitution, citizens are allowed to “follow any religion or follow none” and the government is required to respect and protect freedom of religion. According to estimates, the majority of Vietnam’s more than 94 million people practice Buddhism. More than 6 million Vietnamese are Catholic, more than 1 million practice the Cao Dai or Hoa Hao faiths, and approximately 1 to 2 million are Protestant.
However, the constitution permits authorities to override human rights, including religious freedom, for reasons of “national security, social order and security, social morality, and community well-being.”
Vietnam’s Communist government is particularly suspicious of Christianity, which it associates with former invaders, France and the U.S.
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF noted that Hmong and Montagnard Christians in Vietnam’s Northern and Central Highlands are regularly harassed, detained, or even banished because of their religious affiliation. Because of this, USCIRF has recommended that Vietnam be designated as a Country of Particular Concern every year since 2002.
Vietnam ranks as the 21st worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List. According to the persecution watchdog, Christians in Vietnam are targeted by both government and tribal leaders.
In 2018, Vietnam sentenced and jailed a number of Catholic activists, bloggers and Protestant pastors. In August, a pastor, Le Dinh Luong, was sentenced to 20 years for an alleged attempt to “overthrow the government.”
Sources: Christian Post
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