'We saw the plane on fire and night turned to day’

Published: November 29, 2010

The crashed plane’s debris in the foreground as fire from burning jet fuel engulfs the area. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD ADEEL/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Children playing cricket on the service road saw the big bird fall flaming from the sky. “My friend shouted that a plane had caught fire. Suddenly, night turned into day,” described 14-year-old Aftab Aslam, who lives in the naval housing colony near Dalmia.

The Sudan-bound cargo plane, a Russian-made Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft, crashed near the naval housing colony Sailors Residential Estate (SRE) Majeed, the biggest naval colony in South Asia, early on Sunday.

“We all thought the plane was about to fall on us and so we started running towards block 30. There was a big bang, which jolted the entire block 30 building,” Aftab said. “The smell of petrol filled the air. That is when we heard ambulances.”

He said residents of the surrounding area also reached the site to helped rescue workers. But later, the area was cordoned off by the police and other law-enforcement agencies.

Around eight bungalows of the newly constructed naval housing society were damaged following the crash. According to residents, eight to 10 labourers lived in the bungalows. But the bodies of only three labourers have been found from the debris so far.

Sixteen-year-old Muhammad Saeed said, “We heard a man crying for help. He was yelling ‘mujhe bachao’ [save me].” Saeed’s father went out to the balcony where he saw the plane falling. “People in our building started running downstairs in fear.”

Some successfully escaped the crash, while some didn’t.

“I saw a man trying to escape from the site as soon as the plane crashed. He tried speeding on his bicycle but he was trapped in the fire,” Sultan Ahmed, a naval police officer, told The Express Tribune. He was taken to Civil hospital where the doctors declared his condition critical.

The mosquito nets on the balconies facing the front of the buildings were burnt. “We could not look at the plane for about an hour [after the incident] because it was so hot outside. I saw flames touching the sky,” said Usama, a petty officer in the navy. “God has saved the people living here because the plane crashed just 30 metres away. If the plane had crashed here, hundreds of people would have lost their lives.”

The colony is divided into many blocks where around 4,000 employees of the Pakistan Navy reside.

Mujahid Nazir, a KDA employee who lives in Dalmia, said that he was going home with his six-year-old son on his motorcycle. They saw the Russain-made cargo plane on fire. “One side of the plane was on fire. I have never seen such a fire in my life,” said Nazir. He said that the plane crash shocked him and his son. “We are now afraid of flying.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Nov 29, 2010 - 1:46AM

    It was indeed horrific when I saw that in news. Recommend

  • Ammar hasana
    Nov 29, 2010 - 10:33AM

    I am a resident of the colony. The plane crashed in NHS karsaz not Majeed SRE. And yes that is close to the Majeed SRE as there is a wall that divieds the two colonies. And I am sorry to say that your report does not reflect the true picture. It crashed on an undercontruction house where some of the worker s were asleep. It has destryed a KESC power sub station, 1 house completely and 2 of the houses that were near are quite badly affected. The fire was intense but it was not as HOT as you have mentioned in the article.

    I would also like to add that this is the second Air Crash in two weeks. If you look at the airial distance the previous crash is not more then half a kilometer away from the recent crash site. I would like to raise up this issue to the CAA that they should either relocate the airport or think of another alternative air strip. We should thank God that at both instances the plane crashed where there were no residents residing.
    THIS I GUESS IS MORE THEN A COINCIDENCE Recommend

  • Riaz
    Nov 29, 2010 - 11:38AM

    This is 2nd accident in current month! and also in the almost same place, i fear any conspiracy!!!Recommend

  • S Nighat
    Nov 29, 2010 - 12:20PM

    I think Mr. hasana has not read the story and just passed the comments. The story portraits true picture revealing in second paragraph that the cargo plan crashed near SRE (The biggest naval colony of south asia). Recommend

  • Nov 29, 2010 - 9:49PM

    @S Nighat: Since I am one of the people who was on location I can assure you that Ammar indeed is right and the fire was in NHS and not in MSRE. Plane hit clean ground near the under construction houses and those houses caught fire because of the leaking jet fuel.Recommend

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