Tuesday, March 19, 2019 | ePaper

More lives could have been saved

Firefighters struggle for over half an hour to reach burning wreckage

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Staff Reporter :
More lives could have been saved from the burning wreckage of the US-Bangla aircraft had the firefighters been equipped with proper personal protective equipment for the rescue and response operation.
"We couldn't enter the active fire in and around the aircraft due to lack of suitable entry suits," a firefighter who took part in the rescue and response mission, told The Himalayan Times.
He said though rescue and firefighting foam tenders had reached the crash site within three minutes of the crash, they had to struggle for over half an hour to reach the intensely burning wreckage due to lack of aluminised fire entry suits. Aluminised fire entry suits are mandatory for such hazardous situation as mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), according to the firefighter.
"Most of the 22 lives saved from the scene were from areas that didn't catch fire," he said, adding, "More lives could have been saved if the firefighters were equipped with necessary gears and personal protective equipment."
Another rescuer told the newspaper that they managed to save lives of mostly those passengers who had luckily escaped from the fire.
Doctors at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital who conducted post-mortem told the newspaper that most of the 49 deaths were attributed to inhalation of toxic fumes, implying that the occupants remained alive despite the high intensity impact.
Officials at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) confirmed that the firefighting rescue squad was only issued fire proximity suits that were not suitable for entering active fire areas at TIA.
"They would have saved more lives had they donned fire entry suits," a CAAN official said.
TIA stated that the ill-fated plane crash-landed at 2:18pm on Monday last and immediately burst into flames.
"The fire was controlled at 3:00pm while all bodies were retrieved by 5:45pm," TIA said in a statement. Bangladeshi citizen Shahreen Ahmed, 29, who survived the crash, said she saw other passengers burning, shouting and falling down.
Late response to crash-landing of BS-211 flight shows the actual state of emergency rescue and response efforts in the country's sole international airport, an airliner pilot said.
TIA management, however, claims that the aerodrome is certified for handling Category 9 aircraft (wide body jets). "Poor handling of an accident related to Category 5 belies that claim," the senior captain added.

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