KARACHI: At least two passengers miraculously survived the tragic incident in which a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft carrying 99 people crashed near the airport on Friday.

The A-320 Airbus, which was carrying 91 passengers and eight crewmembers from Lahore aboard Flight PK-8303, met its fate minutes before 3pm and crashed in the residential Jinnah Garden society in Model Colony, not far from Karachi airport.

The names of the confirmed survivors were president of the Bank of Punjab (BoP) Zafar Masud and a young resident of Mehmoodabad, Mohammad Zubair.

There were unconfirmed reports about other possible survivors as well. However, because there was no official confirmation about their fate, Dawn is not mentioning them.

The loud noise, the big fire and the strong vibrations caused by the huge airliner when it hit the ground created panic among the residents of Jinnah Garden. When the people regained composure they realised the gravity of the situation. They soon came to know that the crash had left two streets of their society under thick black smoke and flames.

BoP’s president was carried out of the debris, while the other survivor moved out of it on his own

“As news of the plane crash was confirmed, our only concern was to put out the fire and extract the people out of the (affected) houses, who were injured in the crash,” said Asif Nizam, a resident of the society.

“There was thick smoke. We couldn’t breathe and see anything. We (initially) couldn’t enter the affected street, but somehow we managed to do so. There was no one. No ambulance. No fire tender. The plane had crashed just three to five minutes ago. We were seven or eight neighbours who reached there first.”

As Mr Nizam and his neighbours moved into the street, one of them suggested they should first help the people inside the damaged houses. It would be unwise to look for survivors in the debris of the plane because no one was expected to survive the crash.

“But as I was busy in one of the houses, I heard one of my neighbours shout, ‘Aik bandaa zindaa hai. Aik bandaa zindaa hai [A passenger is alive],” Mr Nizam said.

He and his two friends rushed outside and saw some residents moving an injured man out of the debris. The man was later identified as the BoP’s chief executive, Mr Masud, who is the son of renowned actor Munawar Saeed.

A video soon went viral over social media platforms corroborating Mr Nizam’s account that showed a few man carrying Mr Masud — who was injured but conscious at the time — and moving him to an ambulance.

Mr Masud was admitted to a private hospital in Gulistan-i-Jauhar, where he was seen by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Senate’s deputy chairman Saleem Mandviwala.

The other survivor — Muhammad Zubair — was returning to Karachi from Sialkot via Lahore to celebrate Eid with his family. Sindh’s Education Minister, Saeed Ghani, confirmed that he had survived the accident in a tweet.

“Meet Muhammad, (the) lucky passenger of (the) unlucky flight,” he wrote. He shared Mr Zubair’s photo as he was being at a private hospital.

Mr Ghani told Dawn that Mr Zubair was stable and very much conscious. He came out of the debris himself and then some people shifted him to hospital.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2020