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KARACHI: “It was 3.45am. I was up for Tahajjud prayers. In the heavy sound of the thud I could make out a cement structure and things breaking. Immediately I knew it had to be a rock,” said Mohammad Ikram, a resident of Gulshan-i-Ghazi in Baldia Town, where tragedy befell a family in the early hours of Thursday. “I ran outside. It was dark but I climbed up Zamir Gul’s collapsed home. I was screaming for help. My son and two daughters came to my assistance with torches and emergency lights. I squeezed my way inside and found Zamir Gul. He did not seem to be injured but he was not breathing. I pulled him out and brought his lifeless body outside.

“With the help of my daughter, we followed the sound of a woman calling for help. It was his wife. By the time we pulled her out from under the rubble, more neighbours had also arrived. She told us who else was still under the debris and we went searching for them,” said the elderly neighbour, whose own home across the late Zamir Gul’s place has a portion crushed under another huge rock from the hill where people have constructed many illegal houses.

Zamir Gul’s two daughters and only son were also killed though his 12-year-old son, Abdullah, was still alive when pulled out by the area residents. Two young men in the neighbourhood rushed him to the nearby Iqbal Hospital on their motorcycle. “One of them decided to stay with him at the hospital and told me to hurry back and get the others. By the time I came back, the mosque loudspeakers, too, were calling for help and the ambulances had arrived. The dead and injured were being transported to the Civil Hospital,” added Ayaz, one of the two young area residents.

“When I went back to the hospital where I had left little Abdullah and my friend, I was informed that the boy couldn’t make it,” he said.

Another young boy was quietly watching the crowd still gathered at the place, his eyes wide open with fear and shock. “He is Ihsan, the boy’s class-fellow,” someone said.

“Abdullah and I go to Morning Star Public High School,” said little Ihsan, still a bit confused about his class-fellow’s being no more. “We are in class two. Abdullah excelled in Islamiat,” he said.

The daughters of Ikram, the elderly neighbour first to arrive at the scene, said that all of Zamir Gul’s children happened to be good students. “Zamir Gul was a mason. His eldest daughter was studying nursing, the second daughter was a student of second year, the third is in Class IX. Then there was Abdullah followed by two more daughters, aged six and four, who also attend school,” one of the girls shared. “They are Pakhtun,” she added.

Dangerous place to live

“This place is extremely dangerous to live because of the hill. We have created land for ourselves here by removing several rocks. We have no other place to go. We are poor people. We have also built our small homes ourselves. The plumbing lines also we have laid ourselves,” said Ikram.

Most gutters in the homes on the hill flow into the rocks formed of hardened mud. Softening the rocks from below, it appears that the moisture is also one of the main causes of landslide in the area. From above, it is easy to see rocks inside some homes. “Just a few years ago a rock had fallen on my home demolishing three rooms and crushing my son’s new rickshaw. But no one had been injured, thank God!” said Ikram.

The fateful incident happened when Zamir Gul also had two guests, his wife’s sister and her young son, staying with them. The child also died in the incident while his mother, the sister-in-law, was injured.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2017