KARACHI: Noman Shamsi was sitting in his living room after Friday prayers and his wife was whipping up Iftar for the family when a huge boom shook their home in Karachi’s Model Colony and packed it with black smoke.
“It was doomsday,” Shamsi told Arab News on Saturday, a day after a Pakistan International Airlines jet plunged into his neighborhood roughly a hundred feet away from the port city’s Jinnah International Airport, 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,” Shamsi said.
“Our gate was hit in a way we couldn’t open it. There were flames and we couldn’t get to the roof. We were suffocating inside our home,” he said.
Finally, the family managed to escape.
Out on the street, the devastation was unimaginable with one 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 center of the street. He saved many lives on the ground,” he said.
No casualties have been reported where the plane crashed into the congested street of homes, and four locals have been injured according to the provincial health ministry-- none of them critically.
“He [pilot] was a wise man. May God accept his martyrdom,” he said. “His timely decision saved lives.”
Syed Manzar Shah, another neighborhood local told Arab News that despite getting away with their lives, residents of the ill-fated street where the plane crashed had been traumatized by Friday’s events. Especially the children, he said, who would watch the planes fly closely overhead on their way to and from the runways.
Abdul Majeed, another Model Colony homeowner, said his children had moved to relatives’ homes and didn’t want to come back.
“The planes were routine for us... since the aircraft would fly close to our homes,” Majeed said. “But now, when we see a plane landing, we think it could just fall on us.”
Speaking at a media briefing in Karachi, aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said high-rise buildings-- a few stories tall-- were prohibited near airports and that at least 1500 acres of land along Karachi airport had been illegally grabbed. The minister didn’t offer further details
Model colony resident Majeed agreed, and alleged people had constructed homes taller than 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.”