Al Ain: A loud bang, mangled metal, screams of “save me” and piles of sand and construction debris all around — Mohammad Sulaiman is still trying to come to terms with the road accident in Al Ain on Monday.
Sulaiman, from Al Hakim Cleaning Company, was one of the 46 workers headed to work on the doomed bus that was hit by a truck on the Al Ain-Abu Dhabi Truck Road near Al Rawdah palace at 7.45am on Monday.
Twenty-four workers died, while another 24 were admitted to hospitals across the Oasis City.
“Some were stuck inside the bus for two hours, the emergency crew had to struggle with complicated options to get us out,” Sulaiman, 21, told Gulf News lying on a hospital bed at the New Medical Centre Speciality Hospital in Al Ain.
The painter from Bangladeshi was among three injured workers rushed to the hospital after Abu Dhabi police extricated them in a painstaking operation.
A Pakistani worker at the hospital said police arrived at the scene almost immediately, followed by dozens of ambulances. “We were helping each other first, I pulled out two bodies. All my friends are dead,” he said.
Sulaiman is yet to convey the message of his accident back home to his family in Bangladesh. “I don’t want to bother my mother... I will call her when I get out of the hospital in a couple of day’s time,” he said.
Sulaiman was sitting in the rear of the bus when the accident took place. According to him, most co-workers sitting at the front of the bus died.
“I don’t remember in details what happened... But I do remember the impact of the bus being hit by the truck. It hit right in the centre of the bus and all of a sudden there were loud noises all around. All I did at that point was to remember Allah and ask for his mercy,” he said.
A Pakistani survivor in his early twenties, lying on the bed with his leg wrapped in a bandage, said: “My friends are dead. Half of my family is here in Al Ain and we are just mourning the dead.”
According to him, the truck was trying to overtake the bus, which was about to turn. “The truck rammed right in the centre and we were thrown out of the windows while some crashed on the ground. Everyone seated behind me died. There were screams of ‘save me’ for two hours as many workers were stuck. Even the rescuers seemed to be a bit shocked at the scene in front of them,” he said.
At Al Ain Hospital, the injured started being wheeled in from 9am, while the dead were being transferred to the morgue by 10.30am.
Six of the injured admitted to the hospital were described as in a stable condition.
A worker waiting outside the morgue at Al Ain Hospital told Gulf News his cousin died in the accident. “He was a 21-year-old painter from Bangladesh. They are identifying his body... It’s all God’s will,” he said tearfully.
Azam, another Bangladeshi worker, was a little more fortunate — one of his cousins survived the accident with moderate injuries and was taken to Al Tawam Hospital. But he had no idea about another cousin who was also on the bus, and was desperately seeking information about which hospital to go to for more details.
A man who was said to be a public relation officer (PRO) of Al Hakeem Cleaning Company was seen compiling a list of the deceased from the morgue office at Al Ain Hospital, but declined to comment.
Police are calling on contracting companies and transportation agencies to ensure the strictest enforcement of safety rules while transporting workers, and regularly inspect vehicle safety standards.
Noor Nazzal is an intern at Gulf News