Weather and terrain hamper plane crash rescue

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The Pakistan Information Minister says bad weather and difficult terrain are hampering rescue efforts, with 115 bodies recovered out of 152 dead in the worst aviation accident on Pakistani soil.

Rescue and recovery workers called off operations on the hills above Islamabad as night fell in the wake of the crash of a Pakistani passenger plane in heavy rain earlier in the day that killed all 152 people on board.

At an evening press conference, Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said that bad weather and difficult terrain above the city had hampered search and rescue efforts.

The remains were badly damaged in the crash and DNA tests would be used to identify the victims, he said, and asked for patience from family members.

The Airbus 321, belonging to private airline Airblue, crashed into a heavily wooded and hard-to-access hillside while flying from the southern port city of Karachi.

Rescuers said they had to dig through the rubble with their bare hands, with fire and thick smoke hampering their work. The fire has since been extinguished but access to the hillside remained limited to pedestrians and helicopters.

Asked about concerns over wild animals getting to the unrecovered dead bodies at night, Kaira said rescue teams would keep vigil at the crash site throughout the night.

While thick fog and rainy weather are considered the most likely reasons for the crash, Kaira declined to rule out sabotage, and said all possibilities would be investigated.

Distraught family members arrived Islamabad late on Wednesday to identify the bodies of their relatives. Family members of the victims cried bitterly as they exited their flight. One man had lost two uncles, two brothers and two sisters-in-law in the crash: "It is nobody's fault. It was Allah's will. I had eight people (on the plane)," he told reporters.

Two Americans were among the victims, a US embassy spokesman said.

Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani declared Thursday (July 29) a national day or mourning and ordered national flags to fly at half-mast.