Update: no survivors – earlier media reports remain unconfirmed
Ten minutes before the air crash this morning I was in a PIA aircraft that was unable to land at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport for 45 minutes. We were meant to land at 8.50 am but the pilot informed around 9 am that he was unable to land. He kept on circulating around Islamabad avoiding a major storm, heavy rain and lack of visibility. The passengers were quite petrified. Even I woke up from my early morning nap and could not help wondering if these were my last moments. It was rocky, turbulent ride.
The plane finally landed at 9.45 am. The pilot was clever as he took different air routes and navigated the plane well. As we landed, my phone started to ring and just outside the airport when the news broke out, my friend from overseas called to inquire if I was OK. I had no clue that this horrible tragedy had occurred. Several calls followed.
While we were landing, it makes me shiver that another aircraft had lost contact with the control tower in Islamabad and was about to crash amid thick fog and heavy rainfall.
As I drove to Islamabad, smoke from the rain-washed Margallas was visible. The onlookers were terrified to see this tragedy unfold in front of their eyes.
At present, Margalla Road (also known as Khayaban e Iqbal) is closed for traffic as the rescue operations are underway. Thank God there are survivors many of them have been air-lifted. But this is going to be a long and arduous operation given the scale and the problem of accessing the hills via road.
It is a sad day – raises several questions about airlines’ regulation, the aviation industry and of course our ability to prevent and manage disasters & emergencies.
My prayers are with the families of the deceased and the injured survivors.