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May 24, 2020

Rescuers recount the dreadful event

Karachi

May 24, 2020

Had the fire brigade reached a little earlier and the streets of Jinnah Garden not been extremely narrow, rescuers believe that the damage caused by the crash of the ill-fated Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) PK-8304 could have been reduced.

Ali Raza was one of the few rescuers of the JDC Foundation to reach the Jinnah Garden in Model Colony, where the plane crashed on Friday afternoon. He recalled how the narrow streets caused trouble in the rescue operations.

“The streets were so narrow that there wasn’t any space for even an ambulance to turn,” he told The News, adding that there were clouds of thick black smoke everywhere.

“The crash was inside a densely populated residential street and it was nearly impossible for us to identify the exact spot,” he said, adding that there was smell of fuel and gas everywhere and they had to wait for the utility providers to discontinue their services before entering the exact spot.

When they entered the street where the plane crashed, he said, there was rubble and remains of the aeroplane everywhere. “We didn’t hear any call for help,” he shared, adding that by the time they reached the site, the fire had already reduced everything to ashes.

There were a few bodies that fell on the roofs of houses when the collided with the residential buildings and they were transported to hospitals by the residents on their own.

The rescuers felt immense difficulty due to the heat of the fire even after it was extinguished. “The water used for extinguishing the fire was accumulated at the crash site, and it was so hot that we could even feel its heat in our thick long rubber gloves,” Raza said. The last two bodies recovered from the left wing of the plane were of two children. “I am not sure who those children were as they were unrecognisable, but their height clearly showed that they were kids.”

In a low voice, Raza said fetching those bodies out was the saddest part of the entire rescue operation.

The rescuers chose a room in one of the houses to put the suitcases and luggage of the passengers. “Whatever belongings of the passengers we were collecting were being placed in that room.”

A driver of the Edhi ambulance service, Muhammad Shafiq, was also among those who initially reached the site. Talking to The News, he said that at first, three Edhi ambulances reached the area and all they saw was smoke.

Another driver, Shahid Baloch, said dozens of cars had also been burnt. He lamented that it took quite some time for the fire brigade to reach the street, saying that the damage could have been lesser had they reached earlier. “By the time firefighters reached, more than half-a-dozen vehicles were already burnt,” he said, adding that as the firefighters accomplished the extinguishing work, the rescue workers extended their operations in the rubble.

According to Baloch, the street was so congested that they had to destroy the boundary wall and grill of a house to continue the rescue operation freely. “There were a few residents stuck inside the houses,” he said, adding that they had locked themselves inside rooms to save themselves from suffocation due to the smoke.

Meanwhile, an official of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) told The News on condition of anonymity that the fire brigades of Malir were out of order and it took time for the fire tenders to come from Sohrab Goth and Gulshan-e-Iqbal.