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Pakistani Airline Crash Claims 98 Lives

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A passenger plane with 98 people on board crashed in a crowded neighborhood on the edge of the international airport near Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi Friday after what appeared to be an engine failure during landing.

Mayor Wasim Akhtar said at least five or six houses were destroyed in the crash of the domestic flight operated by Pakistan International Airlines.

He said all those on board died, but two civil aviation officials later said that at least two people survived the crash. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.

Local TV stations reported that three people sitting in the front row of the aircraft survived and aired footage of a man on a stretcher they identified as Zafar Masood, the head of the Bank of Punjab. They reported that at least 11 bodies were recovered from the crash site and six people were injured. It was not immediately clear if the casualties were passengers.

Police wearing protective masks struggled to clear away crowds to allow a firetruck and an ambulance to move through the narrow streets toward the crash site, the air filled with dust and smoke. Police and soldiers cordoned off the area.

A transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, indicated he had failed to land and was circling around to make another attempt.

“We are proceeding direct, sir — we have lost engine,” a pilot said.

“Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller said, offering a runway.

“Sir – mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” the pilot said before the transmission ended.

The aircraft arriving from the eastern city of Lahore was carrying 99 passengers and eight crew members, said Abdul Sattar Kokhar, spokesman Pakistan’s civil aviation authority.

Pakistan had resumed domestic flights earlier this week ahead of the Eid-al Fitr holiday marking the end of the Ramadan. Pakistan has been in a countrywide lockdown since mid-March to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Witnesses said the Airbus A320 appeared to attempt to land two or three times before crashing in a residential area near Jinnah International Airport. The residential area on the edge of the airport, known as Model Colony, is poor and heavily congested.

A resident of the area, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the aircraft circle at least three times, appearing to try to land before it crashed into several houses.

Video circulated on social media appeared to show the aircraft flying low over a residential area with flames shooting from one of its engines.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash… Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased.”

Airbus did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the crash. The flight from the northeastern city of Lahore typically lasts about an hour and a half.

Airworthiness documents showed the plane last received a government check on Nov. 1, 2019. PIA’s chief engineer signed a separate certificate April 28 saying all maintenance had been conducted. It said “the aircraft is fully airworthy and meets all the safety” standards.

Ownership records for the Airbus A320 showed China Eastern Airlines flew the plane from 2004 until 2014. The plane then entered PIA’s fleet, leased from GE Capital Aviation Services.

Perry Bradley, a spokesman for GE, said the firm was “aware of reports of the accident and is closely monitoring the situation.”

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Trump Signs Executive Order To Regulate Social Media After Twitter Fact-Checking Row

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Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order which removed some of the legal protections given to social media platforms, few days after his Twitter fact-checking row.

Speaking to newsmen while signing the order which gives regulators the power to pursue legal actions against firms such as Facebook and Twitter for the way they police content on their platforms, the US President said the move was to “defend free speech from one of the gravest dangers it has faced in American history”.

Trump said: “A small handful of social media monopolies controls a vast portion of all public and private communications in the United States.

“They’ve had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter, virtually any form of communication between private citizens and large public audiences.”

Under Section 230 of the US law, social networks are not generally held responsible for content posted by their users, but can engage in “good-Samaritan blocking” such as removing content that is obscene, harassing or violent.

The executive order however points out that this legal immunity does not apply if a social network edits content posted by its users, and calls for legislation from Congress to “remove or change” section 230. Mr Trump said Attorney General William Barr will “immediately” begin crafting a law for Congress to later vote on. It also says “deceptive” blocking of posts, including removing a post for reasons other than those described in a website’s terms of service, should not be offered immunity.

The executive order also calls for:

the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to spell out what type of content blocking will be considered deceptive, pretextual or inconsistent with a service provider’s terms and conditions a review of government advertising on social-media sites and whether those platforms impose viewpoint-based restrictions
the re-establishment of the White House “tech bias reporting tool” that lets citizens report unfair treatment by social networks

The order also accuses social media platforms of “invoking inconsistent, irrational, and groundless justifications to censor or otherwise punish Americans’ speech here at home.” It specifically cites Twitter for “selectively” applying warning labels to “certain tweets.” It also faults Google for helping the Chinese government surveil its citizens; Twitter for spreading Chinese propaganda; and Facebook for profiting from Chinese advertising.

In a long-shot legal bid, the order seeks to curtail the power of large social media platforms by reinterpreting a critical 1996 law that shields websites and tech companies from lawsuits.

Legal observers described the action as “political theater”, arguing that the order does not change existing federal law and will have no bearing on federal courts. They also argued that it be unconstitutional because it risks infringing on the First Amendment rights of private companies, and because it attempts to circumvent the two other branches of government.

Twitter has however described Trump’s order as “a politicized approach to a landmark law,” saying attempts to erode the decades-old legal immunity may “threaten the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.”

Google, which owns YouTube, said changing Section 230 would “hurt America’s economy and its global leadership on internet freedom.”

Google told BBC: “We have clear content policies and we enforce them without regard to political viewpoint. Our platforms have empowered a wide range of people and organizations from across the political spectrum, giving them a voice and new ways to reach their audiences.”

Facebook also pushed back at the executive order. The social media platform’s spokesperson, Andy Stone said in a statement;

“By exposing companies to potential liability for everything that billions of people around the world say, this would penalize companies that choose to allow controversial speech and encourage platforms to censor anything that might offend anyone.”

This is coming after the US President told his followers on Twitter to “stay tuned” after the social media platform applied a fact-check on two of his tweets, including one that claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud.

Offering its explanation for doing so, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey said the claim might “mislead people into thinking they don’t need to register to get a ballot.”

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New Zealand Discharges Its Last Coronavirus Patient From The Hospital

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New Zealand has discharged the last case of coronavirus in the country and recorded no new cases of COVID-19 for five days consecutively, ministry of health officials announced on Wednesday.

The last coronavirus (COVID-19) patient to be discharged in New Zealand was being treated at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

During a press briefing on Wednesday, officials shared the hopeful statistics. The total number of recovered cases is now at 1,462, and there are just 21 remaining active cases of COVID-19.

The country has conducted a total of 267,435 coronavirus tests and contact tracers are working to monitor the remaining cases through the NZ COVID Tracer app.

New Zealand also launched another app on Wednesday, which will provide health care professionals with access to information on the updated case definition, on local clinical pathways, and on guidance around use of personal protective equipment.

New Zealand borders has slowly been opened, which has been “so important for us to keep the infection out of the country,” public health official Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said during the press conference. Bloomfield also credited proper hygiene such as hand washing.

In late April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that New Zealand had “won” the battle against widespread community transmission of the virus.

Ardern said that to fully “succeed” in the fight against the coronavirus, the country must “hunt down” the remaining cases of the virus. “There is no widespread, undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle,” said Ardern. “But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.”

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Trump Threatens To “Close Down Social Media” After Twitter Puts Warning On His Tweet

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United States president, Donald Trump has threatened to close down social media platforms, a day after Twitter posted a fact-checking notice on one of his tweets.

Trump’s threat comes a day after Twitter Inc. for the first time added a warning to some of his tweets that prompted readers to fact check the president’s tweet that claimed mail-in ballots could allow widespread voter fraud. It immediately led to a presidential eruption accusing the platform of “completely stifling FREE SPEECH”.

Donald Trump insinuated that social media firms suppressed conservative points of view, then said that his administration would “strongly regulate [the companies] or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen”.

On Wednesday, he tweeted:

“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again.

“Just like we can’t let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country. It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!”

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