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.