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Weather focus in deadly Pakistan air crash

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Weather focus in deadly Pakistan air crash
Pakistanis search for survivors after a passenger plane crash in The Margala Hills on the outskirts of Islamabad on July 28, 2010. A Pakistani airliner carrying 150 people crashed in a ball of flames into densely wooded hills above Islamabad during heavy rain and poor visibility, leaving little sign of survivors. UPI/Sajjad Ali Qureshi | License Photo

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 28 (UPI) -- Pakistani officials said there were no survivors among the 152 people aboard a jetliner that crashed Wednesday in fog and torrential rain near Islamabad.

Rescuers worked in heavy rains to recover the bodies of 146 passengers and six crew members from the Airblue jetliner wreckage as officials began trying to determine why the Pakistani airline's 10-year-old Airbus 321 crashed.

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The dead included two Americans, The New York Times reported.

U.S. President Obama issued a statement expressing condolences to the families and friends of all who died.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those touched by this horrible accident," he said.

Thursday will be a national day of mourning in Pakistan.

The Karachi-to-Islamabad flight crashed while trying to land, said Pervez George, a spokesman for the country's civil aviation authority.

The cause of the crash had not been determined. While Pakistani officials had not ruled out a terrorist attack, the focus was on the deteriorated weather conditions at the time, the Times said.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the plane was at 2,600 feet as it approached Islamabad but went back up to 3,000 feet before crashing, CNN reported.

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Officials said cockpit recorders and the bodies of the pilots were recovered from wreckage spread over about 400 yards, the Times reported. Helicopters dispatched to the scene battled smoke and fire arising from the crash site in the Margalla Hills near the capital.

Hashim Raza Garvaizi, a captain for Pakistan International Airlines, told GEO television another flight had been diverted from the Islamabad airport a half hour earlier because of poor conditions.

The Times said some Pakistani aviation experts cited the absence of a multidirectional instrument landing system at the Islamabad airport as a potential contributing factor. But Muhammad Haroon, managing director of Pakistan International Airlines, said pilots routinely land in bad weather and ventured pilot error was the mostly likely cause, the Times said.

Express TV reported the pilot was warned he was flying away from the runway and that he responded, "I can see the runway." In a second exchange, the dispatcher advised him to turn left and the pilot answered, "We can see it," the TV network said.

An Airblue official said one pilot, Pervaiz Iqbal Chaudhry, had more than 25,000 flying hours over a 35-year career.

Irshad Kassim, the director of a local bank, told CNN he usually flies on Airblue to Islamabad weekly, but changed his mind at the last minute Wednesday because of the weather reports.

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"I know Islamabad has a lot of mountains near the landing area, and there is a lot of lightning in the area," Kassim said. "There was a prediction of heavy rain this morning. … I was on the flight, booked and confirmed."

He said he learned of the crash when an airline representative called, asking if a Mr. Kassim was on the flight.

"I am still numb. I am very numb," he said. "I just feel that it's fate, I guess."

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