There are no survivors after a plane carrying 47 people crashed into a mountain in northern Pakistan, the airline's chairman says, as recovery operations continued late into the night at the remote crash site.
The military said 40 bodies had been recovered following the crash on Wednesday afternoon and rescue efforts involved about 500 soldiers, doctors and paramedics.
The bodies were shifted to the Ayub Medical Centre in nearby Abbottabad, about 20km away.
"There are no survivors, no one has survived," said Muhammad Azam Saigol, the chairman for Pakistan International Airlines. PIA-operated flight PK661, which crashed en route from Chitral to the capital, Islamabad.
Junaid Jamshed, a well-known Pakistani pop star turned evangelical Muslim cleric, was among those feared dead, an airline official said.
The scene of the mountainside crash (local police / Dawn.com)
PIA said the captain of the flight had reported losing power in one engine minutes before its plane lost contact with the control tower en route to the capital.
The airline said the plane crashed in the Havelian area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, about 40km north of Islamabad. Chitral, where the flight originated, is a popular tourist destination in Pakistan.
Saigol said the ATR turboprop aircraft had undergone regular maintenance and in October had passed an "A-check" maintenance certification, performed after every 500 flight hours.
He said a full investigation of the crash, involving international agencies, would be conducted.
"All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris are scattered," Taj Muhammad Khan, a government official based in Havelian, told Reuters.
(local police / Dawn.com)
Mr Khan, who was at the crash site, said witnesses told him "the aircraft has crashed in a mountainous area, and before it hit the ground it was on fire".
Pakistani television showed a trail of wreckage engulfed in flames on a mountain slope.
Irfan Elahi, the government's aviation secretary, told media the plane suffered engine problems but it was too early to determine the cause of the accident.
In a late night statement, PIA said the plane was carrying 47 people, including five crew members and 42 passengers.
Earlier, the airline had said there were 48 people on board.
(local police / Dawn.com)
The airline said two Austrian citizens and one Chinese citizen, all men, had been on board. The flight manifest showed three people on board with foreign names.
The Austrian foreign minister's spokesman later confirmed two Austrians had been killed in the crash.
A local trader at the site of the crash said the fire was still burning nearly two hours after the crash.
Plane crashes are not uncommon in Pakistan and safety standards are often criticised.
PIA has also suffered major disasters in the past.