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Ayaz Gul | Islamabad 29 July 2010
People mourn deaths of their family members at a local hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, 28 Jul 2010
Pakistan is observing a day of national mourning after 152 people were killed in the country's worst-ever air disaster. Officials say weather is impeding the search underway to find the "black box" with all of the flight data prior to the crash. Pakistani authorities say the heavy monsoon rains also are hampering efforts to recover the remains of victims in the Margalla hills surrounding Islamabad, where Wednesday's plane crash occurred.
Officials suspect thick fog and rainy weather are the most likely reasons for the worst aviation accident in Pakistan.
National Disaster Management Authority head Nadeem Ahmed said that rescue teams have recovered most of the bodies, while technical experts are still searching for the Flight Data Recorder - commonly known as the "black box" - to look into the cause of the deadly crash.
"We are still continuing with the combing and search operation in the Margalla hills," said Ahmed. "We have teams from the army, navy as well as the civil aviation authority. The civil aviation authority is, of course, looking for flight data recorder and collecting the other evidence which will help them find out what was the cause of the accident."
The control tower at the Islamabad airport has been sealed off and investigators are examining radio traffic between the plane and the tower to determine causes of the crash.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a news conference in Islamabad about 70 bodies have been identified and handed over to their relatives, while experts are conducting DNA tests to identify remains of other victims.
The government declared a day of national mourning for the victims.
The commercial passenger plane belonging to the private "Airblue" service was coming from the southern port city of Karachi and crashed as it attempted to land at Islamabad's international airport. All of the 152 people on board were killed, including the six crew members.
Top officials of the private airline maintained the Airbus 321 was not very old and there was nothing technically wrong with it. Airblue is the biggest private airline in Pakistan and started its domestic and limited overseas operations in 2004.
U.S. President Barack Obama, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders offered condolences to the families of the victims, who included two U.S citizens. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit thanked all of them for expressing solidarity with Pakistan at this painful time.
"The people and the government of Pakistan are thankful to all those foreign leaders who have sent messages of condolence and shared our national grief," said Basit.
The last major aviation accident within Pakistan occurred in 2006 when a passenger plane belonging to the state-run Pakistan International Airlines crashed near the central city of Multan, killing 45 people.