Mourners carry coffins with victims of a plane crash a day after a PIA aircraft crashed in a residential area in Karachi. AFP
Model Colony is a densely populated residential area of Pakistan’s commercial city of Karachi, where a Pakistan International Airlines plane flying from Lahore to Karachi crashed on Friday afternoon.
This middle class neighbourhood is away from the city centre, located on the outskirts of the city just behind Jinnah International Airport, where the crashed flight was supposed to land. The site is around a kilometre away from the boundary of the international airport.
The plane crashed in a small and narrow closed street of Model Colony with houses on either side, where locals used to park their cars. Several cars parked on the street caught fire after the crash. The crash site was so congested that the rescue workers had to break portion of a wall to reach the crashed plane.
After the flight crashed, locals of the nearby neighbourhoods recorded scenes with their mobile phones in which plumes of thick black smoke rising from the site could be seen, and later shared on their social media sites.
A PIA's pilot and some passengers of the ill-fated plane.
Shortly after the crash, military and security personnel rushed to the site while large numbers of firefighters, ambulances run by charities and cranes also reached the area.
Authorities suspended power as overhead electricity wires and a power grid were creating hurdles in the movement of rescue cranes.
PIA appears to have suspended its website. The airline has set up a counter at both Karachi airport and Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore for families of the passengers.
Recently, the local government in Pakistan’s Sindh province eased the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown ahead of Eid al-Fitr, and as a result large numbers of people rushed to the scene, ignoring social distancing instructions.
Officials said that the presence of such a large number of people near the crash site was creating hurdles in rescue work. Security personnel were thus deployed at the entrance of Model Colony to keep the people from entering the already congested area.
Due to COVID-19, all educational institutes have been closed for the past three months and most of the students spend their time at home. Muhammad Shabir, a secondary school student and resident of the neighbourhood, was at the roof of his house with his friend.
“We were busy flying kites. We saw the plane flying in an unusual way and instead of going to the airport it was coming to our colony and then crashed. We heard a blast and plumes of smoke rising from the site. First we rushed to the site but later we thought, we must not go close so we went back home.”
A large number of people from other areas also reached the colony to enquire about their relatives or friends. As a result mobile phone signal was interrupted. Safdar Ali, a carpenter, said that he came to know about his uncle living in the colony. “I tried calling his mobile, but it was not responding, so I came here. But security personnel are neither allowing me to enter the area nor is anyone giving me any information.”
Faisal Edhi, head of Pakistan’s largest charity, Edhi Foundation, said Edhi ambulances took more than two dozen people from the site to the hospital and that “the majority of the bodies had oxygen masks on”.
As the sun was about to set, visibly tired rescue workers who had been busy in search and rescue operations since the afternoon sat down to break their fast. With fatigue and grief on their faces, they were quick to break their fast to get back to relief work. By the time they started to work again, the area was lit up with huge flashlights but the gloom remained.
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Mayor Wasim Akhtar said at least five or six houses were destroyed in the crash of the domestic flight operated by PIA. He said all those on board died, but two civil aviation officials later said that at least two people survived the crash.
After the aircraft reportedly called off an earlier attempt to land and went around for a second attempt, a controller radioed the pilot of flight 8303 that he appeared to be turning left, suggesting he was off-course.
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