'All I could see was fire and hear screams of everybody'

By: News Desk      Published: 12:17 PM, 23 May, 2020
'All I could see was fire and hear screams of everybody'

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

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) 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 onto a street, sparking a rescue operation that lasted into the night.

Commercial flights in the country resumed only days ago, ahead of Eidul Fitr, after planes were grounded during a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

"After it hit and I regained conciousness, I saw fire and smoke everywhere and no one was visible," Muhammad 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."

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

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.

The survivor, Muhammad Zubair, said there were 10-15 minutes between the first attempt at landing and the crash. "No-one was aware that the plane was about to crash; they were flying the plane in a smooth manner," he said.

Zubair said from his bed in Civil Hospital Karachi that about 10 minutes after a failed first landing attempt, the pilot announced to passengers he was going to make a second attempt, then crashed as he approached the runway.

Zafar Masud, president of the Bank of Punjab, was the other passenger who survived the crash, a provincial government spokesman said. Both were at the front of the plane.

Smoke billowed from the scene where flight PK 8303 came down at about 2.45pm local time. Twisted fuselage lay in the rubble of multi-storey buildings as ambulances rushed through chaotic crowds.

“The aeroplane first hit a mobile tower and crashed over houses,” witness Shakeel Ahmed said near the site, a few kilometres short of the airport.--Agencies