A Pakistani military plane on a training flight crashed into homes near the garrison city of Rawalpindi before dawn on Tuesday, killing at least 18 people, most of them on the ground.
Fires, damaged homes and debris were visible in Mora Kalu village on the outskirts of Rawalpindi after daybreak. After rescue efforts ended, troops and police cordoned off the residential area to search for plane debris and investigate the crash site.
Rescue officials said there were no survivors on the plane and that 13 civilians were killed on the ground. The army said in a statement that five crew members, including two pilots, died in the crash.
Farooq Butt, an official at the state-run emergency service, said 15 people were also injured in the crash. There were concerns the death toll could rise further since some of those injured were in critical condition.
“We have moved all the bodies and injured persons to hospitals,” Butt told The Associated Press. “Most of the victims received burn injuries.”
He added that there were children among the dead.
Residents said they woke up when they heard an explosion and saw debris of a burning plane near their homes. Army helicopters were seen hovering over the crash site later.
“My sister, her husband and their three children were killed when the plane crashed into their home,” said Mohammad Mustafa, as he sobbed near his sister’s badly damaged home. He said rescuers and troops quickly reached the area after the crash.
Several men and women who lost their relatives in the crash were seen wailing and crying as rescuers put charred bodies of the victims into ambulances. Footage on social media showed the plane was flying very low before it quickly went down.
Abdul Rehman, a medical doctor, said at least three homes were badly damaged and the pilots’ bodies had been retrieved.
“According to our latest information, a total of 18 people were killed in the plane crash. They include five crew members and 13 civilians who were killed when the plane crashed into homes and quickly caught fire,” he said.
Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan in separate statements expressed their condolences.
The military said the army aircraft was on a routine training flight when it crashed, but had no information on the possible cause. An investigation was underway.
Pakistan’s military has been on high alert since February, when India launched an airstrike inside Pakistan to target Pakistan-based militants behind the suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian troops in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Pakistan at the time retaliated and said it shot down two Indian air force planes. One Indian pilot was captured and later released amid signs of easing tensions.
In 2010, a Pakistani passenger jet crashed into the hills surrounding the capital, Islamabad, in poor weather, killing all 152 people on board.