Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

Pakistan plane crash survivor describes horror: 'I saw fire everywhere'

Mohammad Zubair, 24, was one of only two survivors from flight PK 8303 from Lahore to Karachi

One of the two people to survive a plane crash in Pakistan that killed 97 people has described jumping from the burning wreckage of the aircraft after it hurtled into a residential district.

The Pakistan International Airlines plane came down among houses on Friday afternoon after both engines failed as it approached Karachi airport, the airline said.

Its wings sliced through rooftops, sending flames and plumes of smoke into the air as it crashed on a street, sparking a rescue operation that lasted into the night.

Commercial flights in the country resumed only days ago, before the Eid Al Fitr holiday, after planes were grounded during a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

“After it hit and I regained consciousness, I saw fire everywhere and no one was visible,” Mohammad Zubair, 24, said from his hospital bed in a video clip circulated on social media.

“There were cries of children, adults and elderly. The cries were everywhere and everybody was trying to survive. I undid my seat belt and I saw some light and tried to walk towards it. Then I jumped out.”

Mr Zubair had suffered burns but was in a stable condition, a health ministry official said.

The airline named the other survivor as the president of the Bank of Punjab, Zafar Masud.

The health ministry for Sindh province, which includes the southern port city of Karachi, on Saturday confirmed that all 97 bodies recovered from the crash site had been on the plane.

At least 19 had been identified so far, while DNA testing on the others was being carried out at the University of Karachi.

A local hospital earlier reported it had received the bodies of people killed on the ground.

A PIA representative said air traffic control lost contact with the plane travelling from Lahore to Karachi shortly after 2.30pm.

The pilot made a desperate mayday call after announcing “we have lost engines”, according to an audio recording confirmed by the airline.

PIA chief executive Arshad Mahmood Malik described the Airbus A320 as one of the safest planes.

“Technically, operationally, everything was in place,” he said, promising an investigation.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the captain, Sajjad Gull, had been described by the airline as a senior A320 pilot with extensive flight experience.

The plane had first entered service in 2004 and was acquired by PIA a decade later and had logged about 47,100 flight hours, Airbus said in a statement.

Residents were the first to sift through the charred and twisted wreckage strewn in search of survivors, with witnesses reporting the cries of a man hanging from the plane’s emergency exit door.

Sarfraz Ahmed, a firefighter at the crash site, told AFP that rescuers had pulled bodies from the aircraft still wearing seat belts.

Residents near the scene recounted how the walls of their homes shook before a big explosion erupted as the aircraft slammed into the district.

“I was coming from the mosque when I saw the plane tilting on one side. It was so low that the walls of my house were trembling,” said Hassan, aged 14.

Another resident, Mudassar Ali, said he “heard a big bang and woke up to people calling for the fire brigade”.

Updated: May 23, 2020 09:44 PM

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