KARACHI: Noman Shamsi was sitting in his living room after Friday prayers as his wife was cooking iftar when a huge sound shook their home in Karachi’s Model Colony, their home filling up with black smoke.
“It was doomsday,” Shamsi told Arab News on Saturday, a day after a PIA jet plunged into his neighborhood killing 97 people on board. Two survivors were pulled alive from the wreckage. “Our house shook so (hard) for a moment, we thought it was a massive earthquake, but suddenly it filled with black smoke and debris flew our way. Our gate was hit in a way that we couldn’t open it. There were flames, and we couldn’t get to the roof. We were suffocating inside our home.” Finally, the family managed to escape.
There was unimaginable devastation out on the street - with one aircraft wing wedged into the third floor of his neighbor’s home — but Shamsi said it could have been worse.
“Thanks to the pilot who kept the plane in the centre of the street. He saved many lives on the ground.”
No casualties have been reported where the plane crashed into the congested residential street and less than a dozen locals have been injured — none of them critically.
“He (pilot) was a wise man. May God accept his martyrdom,” Shamsi added. “His timely decision saved lives.”
Local Syed Manzar Shah told Arab News that, despite getting away with their lives, the street’s residents were traumatized by Friday’s events. Especially the children, he said, who would watch the planes fly closely overhead on their way to and from Karachi airport’s runways.
Abdul Majeed, another Model Colony homeowner, said his children had moved to relatives’ homes and did not want to come back.
“The planes were routine for us ... since the aircraft would fly close to our homes,” Majeed told Arab News. “But now, when we see a plane landing, we think it could just fall on us.”
Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told a media briefing in Karachi that high-rise buildings - a few storeys tall - were prohibited near airports and that at least 15 acres of land along Karachi airport had been illegally grabbed. The minister did not offer further details.
Majeed alleged that people had built homes higher than were legally allowed. Arab News could not independently verify these claims.
“They should move the runway away or relocate this neighborhood,” Majeed said. “The accident which luckily claimed no lives (of locals) is still a reminder that this is a dangerous area for us to live in.”