KARACHI, Dec 29: Kausar Parveen didn’t know what had happened when the blast outside the Karachi cantt railway station took place. All she knew then was that she had to flee from there despite her burn injuries.
“She was coming back home after shopping in Saddar when this explosion occurred. She quickly found a rickshaw at a little distance from the chaos that followed the blast and asked the driver to rush her home,” the injured woman’s daughter, Sonia, waiting anxiously to hear some news about her at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) told Dawn on Saturday.
“Since she was wearing a black burqa, the rickshaw driver never realised that she was injured with her hair and hands burnt,” she cried. “We rushed her here to emergency after noticing her condition when she came home,” she added.
“Now we are waiting here for any news about her. They just didn’t let us go inside.”
Exactly then and there, Nautan, an old mother struggling to break free from her relatives who were trying to stop her from going inside the emergency section, succeeded finally but was stopped again at the barrier by the hospital guards and security people. “Please let me go in. I don’t know if my son, Vijay, a secondhand footwear seller outside cantt station, is dead or alive,” she begged to the men, her voice hoarse from screaming and crying. They let her pass eventually.
Another mother, Gori, sat quietly on a footpath as she rocked back and forth in shock without being able to utter anything. “Her husband, Lal Khan, had a shop near the blast site. At the time of explosion, her son, Sultan, and daughter, Asturi, were also there with their father at his shop. All are in emergency now. We have no word on how they are doing,” said another woman with her who identified herself as their neighbour.
“The hospital should at least cooperate with the victims’ families,” said Akbar Baig, whose cousin, Shahzad, was injured in the blast while he and a friend were transporting some computer equipment on their motorbike.
“At the moment, we don’t even know if we should be here, outside the emergency, or at the mortuary. They should at least put up lists giving the status of the patients, like who is critical, who is mildly injured or who is dead,” he complained.
In reply to a question, a guard at the barrier outside the JPMC emergency ward said: “We have been given instructions not to allow anyone, including the relatives, inside, as they become a hindrance in treatment, coming in the way of the doctors’ work. This is a difficult time for all of us, please understand.” Later, he did allow one relative of each victim inside though.
And then they started bringing out those victims who had received their initial treatment and had been allowed to be shifted to the wards. Seeing her brother, Peeru, come out on a stretcher, Sita, a victim of polio, dragged herself as fast as she could to follow the orderlies taking him upstairs. In the struggle, she even lost her pair of slippers but she didn’t care. “Will he be okay?” she asked and started weeping uncontrollably when she finally caught up with them and saw her brother’s bandaged leg still bleeding on the sheet under him.
Another victim, a head constable of the Sindh Police, Irshad Ali, who had fractured his leg, said that he was going home after his duty when the blast occurred. “I wasn’t sure what had happened then,” he told Dawn.
Four-year-old Azizullah Khan was perhaps the youngest victim being shifted to the Intensive Care Unit. His face was completely burnt. He has been put on a ventilator, said his uncle, Nur Gul, outside the ICU. “The child’s father, Nasrullah, too, was injured in the blast and is still in emergency,” he said, “but we have no news of him.”
“My brother runs a small rest house near the train station. He was strolling outside with his son in his arms when the blast took place,” Nur Gul told Dawn.
Another woman, Unaiza, was brought out with her head bandaged. “She had gone to the station to see off her son when the blast happened,” said a worried relative who had rushed to the hospital after hearing what had happened.
“The son missed his train of course and is here by her side.
“They have bandaged her head but we can see that she needs stitches, which the doctors here didn’t do so we are taking her to the Seventh-Day Adventist Hospital right away,” the relative provided.
Meanwhile, JPMC director (emergency services) Dr Seemi Jamali said that they were putting up the lists with patients’ names. “So far we have received 48 injured patients and six bodies, which have been sent to the mortuary,” she said.
Describing the injuries, she said: “Most of them are burn victims. Several have fractured limbs, while others have head injuries and severe trauma. So far we haven’t found any ball bearings in the wounds though there are a few pieces of metal there,” she added.
Around eight to 10 patients had been released after being provided initial treatment, she said.