'Pakistani plane shouldn't have been allowed to land'

Islamabad, April 21 (IANS) With Pakistani authorities confirming that 127 people perished in Friday's plane crash, a top official of the country's meteorological department has said the Bhoja Airlines plane should have never been given permission to land, according to media reports.

The Islamabad-bound Boeing-737 was on the airline's maiden flight from Karachi city. It was carrying 118 passengers and nine crew members when it crashed Friday in a stormy weather minutes before it was to land at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport at 7 p.m.

The Boeing plane had taken off from Karachi at 5 p.m. The pilot lost contact with the control tower at 6.40 p.m., Geo TV reported.

According to Director General of the Meteorological Department Arif Mehmood, weather warnings had been given to the Civil Aviation Authority twice Friday, the 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.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, meanwhile, has announced a judicial probe into the air-crash. Several staff of the airline have been barred from leaving the country until the investigation is completed.

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

Special counters have been set up at the PIMS to facilitate the mourning relatives, who arrived here Saturday on a special plane from Karachi. They urged the government for earliest completion of the investigation and making its findings public.

Officials from the National Database and Registration Authority are helping to identify the bodies. DNA tests are also being carried, as some of the bodies are mutilated.

Waseem Khawaja, who is in charge of PIMS, said the bodies had been brought in more than 100 bags. At least 100 bodies have been identified so far.

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

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

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