International desk – A Pakistan International Airlines flight with more than 40 people on board has crashed in the north of the country, Pakistani media reported on Wednesday.
Flight PK-661 “lost contact with the control tower on its way from Chitral to Islamabad a short while ago”, the airline said in a statement.
A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said that the wreckage had not yet been found. The national carrier has been accused of safety failures in the past.
Forty-four people were killed in the last major crash in 2006.
The plane came down in the Hevalian area, about 70km (43 miles) north of Islamabad, local media are reporting.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported quoting witnesses that the damage on the ground was “substantial”. There is a fire raging in the village where the aircraft crashed.
The ATR plane reportedly crashed at the Patola village near Pakistan Ordinance Factory, Havelian, and eyewitnesses reported seeing a plane crash hear Havelian, according to district police officer Abbottabad.
PIA Spokesman Daniyal Gilani said, “A distress call was sent to the control tower… then the incident of the crash was reported.”
He added that the ATR-42 aircraft which was “nearly 10 years old” was “in good condition”.
The plane took off from Chitral around 10:00GMT (15:00 local time), losing contact 90 minutes later, shortly before it was due to arrive at its destination.
A famous former pop singer turned Islamic televangelist, Junaid Jamshed and his wife were on the flight’s passenger list, according to leading private news channel GEO TV.
The army says it has dispatched troops and helicopters to the location.
The EU banned PIA flights from flying to Europe in 2007 over safety concerns.