Survivor heard 'cries everywhere'

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 25 May 2020

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

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

Its wings sliced through rooftops, sending flames and smoke into the air as it crashed onto a street, sparking a rescue operation that lasted until the early hours of Saturday.

The 97 victims had been on the plane, the provincial health ministry said, while four people on the ground were injured.

Pakistan's deadliest aviation accident in eight years came days after commercial flights resumed ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Planes had been grounded during a two-month lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"After it hit and I regained consciousness, I saw fire everywhere and no one was visible," passenger Mohammad Zubair, 24, said from his hospital bed.

"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.

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

PIA chief executive Arshad Mahmood Malik said that authorities had also recovered the plane's black box. At least 19 bodies had been identified, while 47 relatives had come forward to provide DNA samples for tests.

The first funerals were also under way, with many more to come.

"Eid has become meaningless not only for Karachi but the whole of Pakistan," said Zia ul Huq Qamar, who lives near the crash site.

Shahbaz Hussain said his mother, who was also among the victims, had been flying back to Karachi after becoming stranded by the lockdown in Lahore while visiting her daughters.

A PIA spokesperson said air traffic control lost contact with the plane travelling from Lahore to Karachi.

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

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