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Jun 06, 2020 PRINT EDITION
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Tragedy hits Karachi days before Eid

A Pakistan International Airline (PIA) Airbus A320 flying from Lahore on Friday crashed into a densely-populated residential colony near the Jinnah International Airport, killing at least 60 people. Luckily, two passengers, the CEO of Bank of Punjab, Zafa

May 23, 2020

A Pakistan International Airline (PIA) Airbus A320 flying from Lahore on Friday crashed into a densely-populated residential colony near the Jinnah International Airport, killing at least 60 people. Luckily, two passengers, the CEO of Bank of Punjab, Zafar Masood, and Muhammad Zubair, survived the crash.
A spokesperson for the Sindh Health department said that they had shifted 60 bodies to the hospitals and feared that the chances of the survival of 40 other people who were being shifted to the hospitals were almost none.
Some five bodies were identified while the health department was conducting DNA matching analysis with victims' family members.
The ill-fated flight PK-8303, carrying 98 people, including 7 crew members, crashed into a densely populated residential colony just a kilometer from the runway.
The Captain of the plane, Sajjad Gul, had 24 years of service experience and 15,000-plus flying hours to his credit while First Officer Usman had 3,000-plus flying hours.
"As per the communications between the pilot and the air traffic control, it can be ascertained that the airplane had developed a technical fault, and it was unable to land," he said.
However, he said the real reason behind the crash could only be determined after a thorough investigation.
PIA CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik said at a press conference that the crash took place when the aircraft was at its final landing approach and added that the facts could be ascertained after the decoding of the black box.
He said that an independent inquiry would be conducted under the supervision of the Aviation Ministry.
He said Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan would visit Karachi on Saturday (today) in this regard. Furthermore, he said that the compensation of the losses would be given as per regulations.
Meanwhile, PIA in its statement said that flight PK-8303 (bearing registration AP-BLD) from Lahore to Karachi crashed near the Jinnah International Airport at 14:39 hours PST on Friday.
It said that a total of 91 passengers and eight crew members were on board.
An emergency response centre has been established at the PIA Headquarters in Karachi where senior PIA management is monitoring the situation.
Rescue efforts were under way, "and we are also ascertaining the extent of damage to life of those on board the aircraft".
Soon after the incident, the Director-General of ISPR, Major-General Babar Iftikhar, tweeted: "To speed up relief and rescue efforts, Army Urban Search and Rescue Team with special equipment and rescue specialists flown from Rawalpindi. Ten fire tenders at site have extinguished fire. Military ambulances are busy in rescuing injured and providing necessary medical care".
Business Recorder observed rescue crew combing through the debris scattered across the streets of Model Colony after the plane crash that destroyed a number of houses and cars.
An eyewitness, Muhammad Kashif, said that he had heard a massive noise and went outside his home to see what had happened. He said he saw a dozen of houses ablaze.
Another eyewitness, Shabana, told this newspaper that she heard people screaming and then she saw clouds of dark smoke rising from some houses.
The survivors were identified as the CEO of Bank of Punjab, Zafar Masood, and Muhammad Zubair.
Second Lieutenant Hamza Yousuf was also killed in this plane crash. He was coming home for the first time since his graduation from the academy to celebrate Eid with his family.
Shabir Ahmed, former chairman of the Pakistan Bedwear Exporters Association who regularly wrote for Business Recorder as a senior columnist, and senior journalist Ansar Naqvi, who has also served in Aaj News as controller news, were among the victims.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah visited Zafar Masood, the miraculous survivor, at the Darul Sehat Hospital and inquired after his health.
When the chief minister visited him he was conscious and being attended by the doctors.
"Hey Zafar! Murad is here," the chief minister addressed Zafar who was lying on the stretcher. Zafar opened his eyes and replied, "Thank you Mr Murad. I am okay - Thank you so much for your visit." Zafar blinked his eyes as a gesture of goodwill towards the chief minister.
The chief minister said, "I am happy to see you stable and you will recover soon. Let the doctors do their procedures, and I'll visit you again," he said and then they exchanged smiles and the CM left the hospital.
The chief minister just after the plane crash talked to the Additional IG of Karachi Ghulam Nabi Memon and Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shalwani and directed them to rush to the spot and expedite the rescue operation.
The air crash has raised serious safety, administrative and transparency issues against Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). According to eyewitnesses, the tail of the aircraft was hit with a roof of a four-storey building.
However, the construction of more than two-storey buildings was prohibited near airport and for high-rise buildings, installation of mobile towers within 15.24 km around airports are required NOC from PCAA, raising a question how this residential building was constructed, one kilometer away from airport, under the very nose of these authorities without any approval.
The PCAA has issued Air Navigation Order (ANO) to the PIA to enhance its safety measures three years ago after the flight 661, operated by an ATR 42-500 aircraft crashed in Havelian, Punjab while en route from Chitral to Islamabad, killing all 47 on board including Junaid Jamsheed on December 7, 2016.
Since then the management is alleged ignoring safety in order to protect its commercial interest, which has recently been exposed by the pilots operated humanitarian flights during covid-19, accusing the management for serious violation of the implementation of preventive measures during flight operations, aviation experts said.
In addition, PIA management has also failed to appoint full time chief pilot safety since the retirement of incumbent chief. On the other hand, PCAA has been running without permanent Director General PCAA for last three years, failing to implement measures for passengers' safety.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020