KARACHI: Desperate people ran helter-skelter with printed photographs or digital pictures of their loved ones as they tried to gather information about them at the Civil Hospital Karachi throughout the night following Saturday evening’s suicide attack at the Shah Noorani shrine in Khuzdar. All the injured and dead were being brought to Karachi via road while their relatives here braced themselves for the worst.
The major hospitals of Karachi, including Civil, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and Abbasi Shaheed, had declared an emergency as they remained ready to receive the casualties. The number of dead rose to 54 with over 103 wounded. Most of them arrived at the Civil Hospital. Dr Abdul Qadir, additional medical superintendent general and coordinator for the SMBB Trauma Centre and Civil Hospital, said they had by Sunday afternoon discharged some 17 patients while 28 were still under treatment at the hospital.
“Six of them were operated upon and are recuperating now; one is on a ventilator in the ICU,” he said, adding that soon after the attack they had appealed for O Negative, B Negative and A Negative blood types, and their appeals were answered promptly. About the type of injuries, he said that were orthopaedic mostly with some head and abdominal injuries due to penetration of the pellets and bearing balls.
Dr Qadir also said that his hospital received 34 bodies, three of which had not yet been identified.
It was a long and painful journey back during which many of the injured died.
Sameer Ahmed, a resident of Memon Goth here, said he was at the shrine with his cousin Ahsan. “We were watching the dhamal at the mela when there was this loud explosion and everything shook making me lose my balance, too. I think I was thrown a few feet away from the pressure of the blast,” he recalled. “I called my cousin’s name many times but he didn’t answer. I felt I couldn’t move much. I dragged myself trying to find him. I couldn’t,” Sameer, now being treated for his wounds at the SMBB Trauma Centre, Civil Hospital, shared with Dawn on Sunday.
“We learnt about the attack from television,” said Sameer’s maternal uncle, Allah Bachaya. “Sameer’s is the son of one of my sisters and Ahsan the son of another, who lives in Khokhrapar. I joined both my sisters after watching the news. We were going out of our minds trying to reach the boys but it was no use because there is an issue with mobile phone signals where they were. We came to the Civil Hospital because it was being said that the injured were being brought here. It was many hours before they could reach here though. And then we only found Sameer,” the uncle said. “Ahsan was identified later, among the dead,” he added quietly.
“Our family members have always travelled to the shrine because we feel our prayers there are always answered. I ask the Almighty now, what did we do wrong this time,” he said.
There were a couple of little children, too, in the ward. “Their injuries aren’t life-threatening but their parents are not doing so well,” said Dr Abdul Qadir. “We thought it better to keep children close to their parents.”
The children’s father, Mohammad Rashid Sabri, a qawwal, said he was at the shrine with his wife and three children, two of whom, eight-year-old Malaika and four-year-old Afzal, were with him in the ward. “My wife, Afroze, and two-year-old son Akbar are somewhere on the upper floors of this hospital. I am told my wife got bearing balls in her head and needs to be operated for that. My youngest is also somewhere with her,” he said with his brother Qazi Abid Ali watching him as he stood next to his bed.
Sabri, who said he was a student of Haji Maqbool Sabri, was sobbing as he narrated the horrors of the night. It was evident that he was still not completely out of the shock. “I was sitting on the floor with my family watching the dhamal. I was also going to present a qawwali later on but I was explaining to my children how deep devotion to a saint makes one dance without sense of self when suddenly there was a very loud boom followed by complete darkness,” he said.
“There was dust and smoke everywhere and I couldn’t breathe. When I could make out what was going on around me, I realised I was surrounded by limbs of dead people. Even the walls had bleeding body parts stuck on them,” he said and began crying again as his brother gently put a hand on his shoulder. “Thank God we all made it. Healing will take time, I know. But at least we are alive,” he said as his brother helped him wipe his tears before quietly leaving his side to speak to this reporter himself.
“My brother has not been informed yet. His wife and youngest child died in the attack. We are telling him they are being treated upstairs,” the brother said with a lump in his throat.
Sunday was also a day of funerals. One family of Liaquatabad buried as many as seven members, all of whom died in Khuzdar. More funerals will follow on Monday.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2016