One of the two survivors of the Pakistan plane crash has described his escape from the burning plane after it came down during a second attempt at a landing.
“All I could see around was smoke and fire,” engineer Muhammad Zubair told Geo News. “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.”
“I opened my seat belt and saw some light. I went towards the light. I had to jump down about 10 feet to get to safety.”
The Pakistan International Airlines Airbus jet with 99 people aboard crashed into a crowded residential district of the city of Karachi on Friday afternoon after twice trying to land at the airport.
At least 97 people were confirmed to have died, health authorities said, but it was not immediately clear whether they included casualties on the ground.
The other passenger who survived was Zafar Masood, president of the Bank of Punjab, a Sindh provincial government spokesman said. The bank said he had suffered fractures but was “conscious and responding well”.
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.
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 crash happened on the eve of the Muslim Eid festival, when many in Pakistan travel to visit relatives.
“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.
The Airbus A320 was flying from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi in the south with 91 passengers and eight crew, civil aviation authorities said, just as Pakistan was resuming domestic flights in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Health officials said 97 people were killed and two survived.
Seconds before the crash, the pilot told air traffic controllers he had lost power from both engines, according to a recording posted on liveatc.net, a respected aviation monitoring website.
“We are returning back, sir, we have lost engines,” a man was heard saying in a recording released by the website. The controller freed up both the airport’s runways but moments later the man called, “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”.
There was no further communication from the plane, according to the tape, which could not immediately be authenticated.
“The last we heard from the pilot was that he has some technical problem ... It is a very tragic incident,” said the state carrier’s spokesman, Abdullah H. Khan.
Another senior civil aviation official said it appeared the plane had been unable to lower its undercarriage for the first approach due to a technical fault, but it was too early to determine the cause.
Aviation safety experts say air crashes typically have multiple causes, and that it is too early to understand them within the first hours or days.
Airbus said the jet first flew in 2004 and was fitted with engines built by CFM International, co-owned by General Electric and France’s Safran.