Daily US Times: A Pakistan International Airlines plane has crashed in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Friday where at least 97 people have died. One plane crash survivor described the horrific experience, saying all he could see “was fire”.
Passenger Muhammad Zubair was one of at least two passengers who survived after flight PK8303 came down in a residential area.
The cause of the crash is not confirmed yet. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) chief executive Air Vice Marshal Arshad Malik said the pilot had told traffic control that the plane was experiencing “technical difficulties”.
The plane may have been unable to lower its undercarriage, one civil aviation official told.
Many images of the plane and the crash site posted on social media appeared to show scorch marks under both engines, with no undercarriage visible on approach.
The crash came days after Pakistan allowed commercial flights to resume after the country’s coronavirus lockdown measures was eased.
How did the plane crash survivor escape?
The plane was an Airbus A320, carrying 91 passengers and eight crew. Many passengers travelling ahead of Sunday’s Eid holiday – had travelled from Lahore.
It was attempting to land at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, one of the busiest in Pakistan, at about 14:30 local time (09:30 GMT) when it came down.
Muhammad Zubair said: “No-one was aware that the plane was about to crash; they were flying the plane in a smooth manner.”
The plane crash survivor said he ost consciousness following the crash. When he came to, he said, “I could hear screams from all directions. Kids and adults. All I could see was fire. I couldn’t see any people – just hear their screams”.
Zubair added: “I opened my seatbelt and saw some light – I went towards the light. I had to jump down about 10ft (3m) to get to safety.”
Why did the aircraft crash?
The plane was just short of the runway perimeter when it crashed in houses in the Model Colony residential area. TV footage showed rescue crews combing through debris strewn across the streets of the densely populated zone. A number of cars were set on fire on the site.
One eyewitness named Mohammed Uzair Khan said he had heard a massive sound and went outside his home.
“Almost four houses were completely collapsed, there was so much fire and smoke. They are almost my neighbours, I can’t tell you what a horrible thing it was”.
Pakistani media published the purported audio of the conversation between air traffic control and a pilot. The pilot is heard saying the plane had “lost engines”. An air traffic controller asks whether it is going to carry out a “belly landing”, to which the pilot replies “mayday, mayday, mayday”.
To determine the cause of the crash, investigators will try to retrieve the so-called black box. A committee of investigation has already been set up to find out the cause.
The plane had joined the fleet in 2014 and passed its annual airworthiness inspection last November, PIA saID.
Local authorities have confirmed at least 97 deaths, but it is not clear yet how many of the dead were passengers and how many residents on the ground. Nineteen of the dead have been identified so far.
A provincial government spokesman said the president of the Bank of Punjab, Zafar Masud, was the other passenger who survived the crash.
An ex-head of the Punjab Disaster Management Authority, Khalid Sherdil and senior journalist at TV channel 24 News, Ansar Naqvi, were also listed on the passenger manifest.
What is Pakistan’s safety record?
Pakistan has a chequered aviation safety record, including a number of airliner crashes.
An aircraft operated by private airline Airblue crashed in 2010 near Islamabad. The incident cost all 152 people on board – the deadliest air disaster in Pakistani history.
A Boeing 737-200 operated by Pakistan’s Bhoja Air crashed in 2012 in bad weather on its approach to land in Rawalpindi, killing all 121 passengers and six crew.
And in 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames while travelling from northern Pakistan to Islamabad, killing 47 people.