Burning smoke and fire: Rescuers risked injury in race to help passengers of crashed plane


KARACHI: The first Edhi ambulance reached the site of the PIA plane crash within 10 minutes of the incident. 

The narrow streets were a maze of parked cars, plane debris and rubble from damaged houses. Only one car could pass through at a time. 

Faisal Edhi, head of the Edhi Foundation, that rescue workers, with the help of the fire brigade, police and Rangers, first looked for people who could be pulled quickly from the debris.

Edhi said that since the street was littered with burning wreckage from the aircraft, most of the rescue work happened from the rooftops of adjacent houses. 

He said that volunteers would retrieve an injured or a body from the debris of the houses, move from one rooftop to another, and then shift them down to ambulances waiting in the street.

He said that many of the rescue workers sustained burn wounds while rescuing people, because the fire was everywhere. 

He said that when Edhi ambulances reached the site, the Civil Aviation Authority’s fire brigades were already there trying to put out the fire.

Innayatullah, a member of Karachi Municipal Corporation’s (KMC) Fire Brigade department, said that the fire had been declared ‘third degree’ at the first instance because it involved a plane. He added that it took at least four to five hours for the firefighters to control the blaze.

He added that around three dozen fire brigades, including 12 from KMC, five from Karachi Port Trust, two from Port Qasim Authority and one from Pakistan Steel Mills, were present at the site. Besides them, 12 water tankers of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board were also involved in supplying water.

According to Innayatullah, it may take up to 24 hours or more to cool the debris down because the fire was still emitting from some of the debris.

Hamza Mubin Hasan of the Sindh Boy Scouts Association said there had been two major challenges before the rescue workers: first, the narrow streets littered with the hot debris, and second, the smoke emanating from the wreckage.

He said that it was difficult to breathe and see ahead because of the smoke and they had to move carefully to avoid sustaining burn injuries.

A total of ninety-seven people lost their lives in the Karachi-bound PIA flight. Only two survived the crash — the chief executive of the Bank of Punjab and a young engineer. Thankfully, there were no casualties on the ground.

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