ISLAMABAD: Admitting loopholes in coordination and communication in the rescue operation, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairperson on Sunday criticised Punjab Rescue Service 1122 for hampering rescue work at the Bhoja airplane’s crash site.
Addressing a press conference on the civic agency’s emergency response to the crash, CDA Chairperson Farkhand Iqbal said that rescue work was bogged down by “the silly actions” of Rescue 1122 Rawalpindi. Their actions, he said, “raised ambiguity over the command and control of the operation” and delayed the dispatch of the remains of the plane crash victims to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims).
Iqbal said that Rescue 1122 officials created “unneeded” delays by preventing CDA rescue teams from dispatching ambulances without authorisation by their supervisor.
This claim was disputed by a senior official of Rescue 1122 Rawalpindi, who told The Express Tribune that they were the first to arrive at the scene. Their supervisor, he added, coordinated with rescue command and control officials.
He maintained that the whole operation remained largely directionless till more than half of the bodies were shifted to the hospital. “Rescue 1122 officials were perhaps the only ones who worked with discipline and under some command,” he added.
In his press conference, Iqbal also said the authority’s Command and Control room received reports of the plan crash at 6:50pm and immediately dispatched special urban search and rescue teams to the crash site, along with doctors and paramedical staff in 12 ambulances. The chairperson said that the rescue teams reached the scene at 7:18pm — a claim disputed by media persons present at the site and also the Rawalpindi Rescue 1122 official.
“Our closest station at Bahria Town was the first to respond and our first rescue vehicle arrived at the scene after more than half an hour of receiving the distress call at 6:50 pm,” said the rescue official.
Also present at the conference, Prime Minister Task Force on CDA Chairperson Faisal Sakhi Butt expressed concern over the lack of mortuaries to store a large number of bodies. “We have realised this shortcoming seriously and will take immediate measures to address it.”
Butt said that besides retrieving bodies and remains of the crash victims, CDA rescue teams also recovered currency, bags, laptops, mobiles, jewellery and other belongings and handed them over to the police. He said that of the 127 people onboard the plane, bodies of 118 passengers have been handed over to their heirs, while nine are still at Pims. Of the bodies that remain at Pims, three are yet to be identified, he added.
When asked whether the authority conducted sprays to prevent odour and disease from the charred human remains scattered at the crash site, the CDA chairperson said that is the responsibility of the National Disaster Management Authority.
“We have done our job.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2012.