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Survivor tells of 'turbulence' and pilot's warning before Pakistan plane crash

Mohammad Zubair said the flight had been smooth until just before landing when it jolted violently and that was the last thing he remembered.

Image: PA

ONE OF THE two survivors of the Pakistan plane crash said the flight had proceeded normally until its descent, when there was a sudden jolt.

Passenger Mohammad Zubair said the pilot had warned that the landing in Karachi would be “troublesome” and the plane jolted violently, which he thought was turbulence.

Moments later, it slammed into a crowded neighbourhood on the edge of the international airport.

Authorities said yesterday’s crash killed 97 people, all of them passengers and crew members.

The Pakistan International Airlines flight was carrying people returning home for Eid al-Fitr, a major holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Provincial health department spokeswoman Meeran Yousaf said only 19 bodies have been identified so far and that most of the victims were badly burned.

Eight people on the ground were injured, including four who are still in hospital, and all residents are accounted for, she said.

The plane crashed near Jinnah International Airport, in the poor and congested residential area known as Model Colony. PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafiz Khan said the aircraft destroyed or heavily damaged 18 homes.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Kokhar said the Airbus A320 was carrying 91 passengers and eight crew members. The only other survivor of the crash was Zafar Masood, a bank executive.

In a telephone interview from his hospital bed, Mr Zubair, a mechanical engineer, said flight PK8308 had taken off on time from the eastern city of Lahore at 1pm local time. It was a smooth, uneventful flight until the aircraft began its descent shortly before 3pm.

“Suddenly the plane jerked violently, once and then again”, he said.

The aircraft turned and the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. They were experiencing engine trouble and the landing could be “troublesome”, the pilot said. That was the last thing Mr Zubair remembered until he woke up in a scene of chaos.

“I saw so much smoke and fire. I heard people crying, children crying.”

He managed to crawl out of the smoke and rubble, and was eventually lifted from the ground and rushed to an ambulance.

Pakistan had only resumed domestic flights earlier this week.

Many of the passengers on board were families returning home for the holiday, said Science Minister Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry.

Between the coronavirus pandemic and the plane crash, this year has been a “catastrophe” he added.

“What is most unfortunate and sad is whole families have died, whole families who were travelling together for the Eid holiday”, he told the Associated Press.

Social media and local news reports said Zara Abid, an actor and award-winning model, was among those killed.

A senior banker, his wife and three young children were also reportedly killed.

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Shabaz Hussein, whose mother died in the crash, told AP that he had identified her body at a local hospital and was waiting to take it away for burial.

Pakistan has been in a countrywide lockdown since mid-March because of the coronavirus, and when flights resumed every other seat was left empty to promote social distancing.

Southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, is the epicentre of Pakistan’s outbreak, with nearly 20,000 of the country’s more than 50,000 cases. Pakistan has reported 1,101 deaths from Covid-19s.

A transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, indicated that he had failed to land and was circling to make another attempt.

“We are proceeding direct, sir, we have lost engine, the pilot said.

“Confirm your attempt on belly, the air traffic controller said, offering a runway.

“Sir, mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303″, the pilot said before the transmission ended.

PIA chairman Arshad Malik told reporters in Karachi on Friday that an independent inquiry would be held but said the aircraft was in good working order.

Airworthiness documents showed the plane last received a government check on November 1 2019.

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