Al Ain: “I watched helplessly as he was crushed to death. His dead body was on me and my friend. That saved our lives,” a victim of Monday’s gruesome accident in Al Ain recounted, his eyes still filled with horror.
Shah Alam, aged 28, was fast asleep, as he normally is on his ride to work. But the day was anything but normal for him as well as for the 47 other passengers on the bus, all labourers on their way to a worksite near the accident spot.
Twenty-four workers were killed and 24 injured in the accident on Monday involving a truck and bus on the Al Ain-Abu Dhabi Truck Road at 7.53am. The death toll has not risen.
He was wakened by a sudden loud thud. Everything happened within moments, he said.
“The next thing I know is one of my friends falling on top of me and then another man on top of him. Within seconds sand and stones started pouring down on us.” He saw the man on top being crushed to death right before his eyes, Alam said, adding that he considers himself extremely lucky to be alive. He was speaking from his bed in Al Tawam hospital on Wednesday.
“I was terrified… and was never sure of making it out of the bus alive. Both my friend and I were struggling to move… to breathe.”
For what he estimates to be about one hour this continued. That’s when a crane lifted up the truck and made it possible for Alam and his friend to get out of the rubble.
Finally he saw the paramedics calling out to him and signalling him to come out. Thankfully he made it.
His face, eyes and pelvic area were injured and he had to undergo surgery. His friend too had several injuries and broken bones, but is alive.
From Bangladesh, Alam has his wife, three-year-old son, parents, six brothers and a sister back home.
He had just returned from leave six weeks ago. He said he is yet to speak to his family after the accident.
He gave a brother in Saudi Arabia a call and told him about what had happened, who informed the family.
“It is better I don’t speak to them now. They must be so worried. Let everything be fine then I’ll call home,” Alam added.
For another Bangladeshi man, Noorul Alam a phone call he received at 10.30am on Monday will be etched in his memory forever. His son-in-law, Mohammad Ala’a Al Deen was among those who died on the spot and his son Mohammad Saifullah Khalid has been injured.
“Thank God… at least one of my sons has been spared,” Alam said. Twenty-five year old Khalid too believes it’s nothing short of a miracle that he is alive. He was seated in the centre of the bus and sustained a few broken bones and several wounds with stitches.
“So many of them died out of suffocation because they were crushed under the stones and sand,” he said, adding that he is deeply saddened as his younger sister has lost her husband.
Masum Ahmad Amir Ali, another victim from Bangladesh, also that he was shocked to see people dead next to him.
“There were four, five bodies next to me,” he said, adding that he didn’t see the accident happen as he was sitting at the back of the bus. His leg, hip bones and spine have been fractured.
Ali said he heard people screaming out and stood up to see what happened, just as the truck rammed into the bus.
“If it were not for the efforts of the rescuers who freed us after cutting through the tangled metal remains of our bus, none of us would be alive.”